July 11, 2019
Today, Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52) introduced the Ensuring Conditions are Humane by Oversight (ECHO) Act, a bill that would help ensure the Office of Inspector General (OIG) personnel can perform surprise inspections of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) migrant facilities when located on military bases. The bill would require the Secretary of Defense to coordinate with the DHS and HHS Secretaries to create a suitable protocol to allow OIG access onto bases. While the federal government does not currently house any migrants seeking asylum on military bases, the Trump administration has suggested bases as potential locations to site temporary shelter facilities. This bill is designed to ensure adequate oversight of these facilities should this occur.
“Just two weeks ago, I voted for an emergency funding bill to improve some of the horrendous conditions at migrant facilities. As I said then, that bill was the fastest way to get migrants the care they need. Now, we need oversight to ensure funds are used to protect the welfare of these children and their families. Proper oversight requires OIG access to every possible federal facility where migrants could be detained. Those who seek asylum and refuge should be treated with respect and dignity. This bill ensures we uphold those values,” said Rep. Peters. “Finally, while military bases are not at all ideal locations to house asylum seekers, locating temporary shelters on military bases is far better than sustaining the dismal overcrowding revealed by the DHS OIG report.”
Rep. Peters has championed efforts to improve accountability and transparency in border policy. He voted to provide emergency funding for border facilities and continues to oppose funding the border wall. The emergency funding bill, which passed the House two weeks ago with the support of 129 Democratic members, included the following protections for migrant families: prioritizes community-based residential care for migrant children, ensures facilities are state-licensed except under limited circumstances, requires vulnerable populations to be housed in licensed facilities, and guarantees access to migrant facilities for Members of Congress within 48 hours. He also is an original cosponsor of Congressman Raul Ruiz’s Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act, which would set standards for health screenings of migrants, as well as standards for water, sanitation, hygiene, food and nutrition, and shelter for migrants.