Rashida Tlaib: Migrant Detention Centers Are "Absolutely" Concentration Camps; "This System Is Broken"

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Rep. Rashida Tlaib passionately denounced President Trump's immigration detention policy in an interview Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

RADDATZ: Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib addressing protestors outside a detention facility in Clint, Texas this week. She joins me from Detroit. Welcome to “This Week”. I want to get your reaction first of all to Acting Secretary McAleenan.



TLAIB: So in regards to the – to the report – regards to what he was saying, it’s so contradictive of what we got in the inspector general’s report recently. I mean what I saw was a number of people at 14, up to 14 in one area sleeping on the floors, a number of them saying they didn’t bathe within 15 days where Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley went up to the water feature, you know, next to the – where the water comes out, she turned the knob and there was no water that was coming out. And when they – and literally every single woman confirmed what the one woman said, which is “I asked for water and they said go drink it from the toilet.” I think there was too many of us, I mean there was close to over 10 or 11 members of Congress, several of them were in the same cell unit where the 14 women or so was at. And then I was in another unit – area where the door they finally were able to open up the door for me to speak to a grandmother who has been there for 40 days and had not seen her grandson that she came with since then, who is also special needs.

RADDATZ: You were – you were – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, your colleague who was at the border with you compared the facilities to a concentration camp. Do you agree with that comparison?

TLAIB: Absolutely, I mean there’s a number of experts that say this is – because it’s traumatic. I mean I don’t know how to explain to people what we saw when we’re explaining to people and they’re kind of looking back and saying well that can’t be true. I said but we were all there, I mean you have Congressman Castro, Melanie, Norma, all of us were there. We saw what we saw and we heard from the folks that were in the facilities, and some of them had not seen their children since being there. What you need to also know is do you know the mere touch, the mere even me holding the hand broke them down in tears? That tells you they’re under a lot of trauma that they are in a facility that is dehumanizing. And you know, this is a choice by the current administration, they are choosing to not allow asylum seekers to go through the legal process. They’re choosing to separate –

RADDATZ: Congresswoman, I want to stop you here for just a second. McAleenan has been sounding the alarm for months for resources to help the migrants, you voted against the $4.6 billion emergency border bill to deal with the surge of migrants, that included almost $3 billion to provide shelter and care for unaccompanied children. Acting Secretary McAleenan says those funds are critical to get children out of CBP custody and transfer, even if the bill didn’t have what you wanted.

TLAIB: Well I’m proud – I – exactly but listen to this, do you know what the CBP agents said on the ground, though Martha?

RADDATZ: Isn’t opposing aid contributing to this crisis?

TLAIB: Martha? Martha, do you know what they said –

RADDATZ: Just answer this.

TLAIB: What did they say on the ground? Ask a CBP agent. That’s the one thing, I can talk to the secretary and he can say throw more money at a broken system, at an inhumane system. Three agents took me aside, away from my colleagues and said more money is not going to fix this, that they were not trained to separate children, that they don’t want to separate two year olds away from their mothers. That’s not what they were trained for, that’s not what they signed up for in their service to our country. They signed up to protect the border, not to separate children, not to put people in cages. They all said this is a broken system, this is inhumane. I mean these are also human beings, these are also fathers and mothers themselves. A woman – I met a agent who’s a mother of five. They all don’t want to be doing this. They all know this is a choice. And let’s be honest right here, Martha, in the ‘80s, it was more that was coming across the border and we didn’t do this. We allowed the asylum seekers to go through the legal process. We allowed community-based agencies to take the lead and show us evidence-based approaches to making sure that people are in humane conditions, that they have medical care, that they are not going to go hungry. I mean this father told me he was there for four days and he’s just been eating potato chips, but more importantly he was gripping his son telling me “I just want my son to be an American boy. I’m here because I have no other choice.”

And I can tell you as a – as a mother of two but also as a child of immigrant – immigrant parents, I know my parents would have done the same thing for me to have a better future. But what our country is doing is creating a generation – a generation of children that will remember what our country did to them. And that to me – I will not vote for something that is broken and deteriorated and is inhumane. That is a choice that I make and a conscious choice. And I can tell you my district supports me 100 percent because they know this system is broken, they know that these agents, again, many of them overworked, suicide is up among CBP agents, look at the numbers, look at the inspector general’s report. All of us can’t be lying, all of us cannot be saying – we’re all saying the same thing, that it’s broken.

RADDATZ: I want to – Congresswoman.

TLAIB: So when I voted against it, when many of us voted against it – several – three I think, four or five of us voted against it, it was because we knew this was not the choice that we needed our country to move forward on. There is a better choice and we’ve seen it in the ‘80s, we need to do better than what we’re doing now at the border.

RADDATZ: I want to bring up that aid package again. In a column in the New York Times this morning the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said that you and the three other progressives made yourself irrelevant to the process by voting against the bill. “All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world,” she said. “But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”

TLAIB: You know people like us, people like me and Ayanna, Ilhan and Alexandria, we’re reflective of our nation in many ways. But many of us didn’t run to be first of anything, but more people like us have been missing in the halls of Congress. More people like us, people of color have been missing in the chamber because most of us – and Ayanna Pressley says it more beautifully, people that are closest to the pain needs to be at the table making these decisions. Guess what, we know what it feels like to be dehumanized. We know what it feels like to be brown and black in this country. And I'll tell you right now, we're not going to stand by and sit idly by and allow brown and dark-skinned children to be ripped away from their parents to be dehumanized.

RADDATZ: What would you say to Nancy Pelosi? What would you say directly to Nancy Pelosi?

TLAIB: Honor the fact we are there, that 650,000 people are represented by each and every single one of us, that there is some sort of, I think in many ways, something special about having a refugee, having a woman that, you know, has experienced alone what incarceration has done to her family, right. All of us have these experiences that I think have been missing in the halls of Congress. Honor that, respect that, put us at the table. Let's come up with a solution together.

But there is a better approach. They passed something out of the House. Still I will not support anything that is broken and that dehumanizes people. But guess what, Mitch McConnell sent you back that something that was worse. And I'll tell you right now, I mean, all you can do is focus on him. Uplift the women, especially the women of color, within your caucus that are out there because I'll tell you more people like us, more people like me that come out to vote, we win, all of us win.

RADDATZ: OK, I'm going to have to stop you there for time.

TLAIB: It is very disappointing that the speaker would ever try to diminish our voices in so many ways.



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