Top US official resigns over migrant mistreatment
The acting head of US Customs and Border Protection resigned today amid an uproar over the discovery of migrant children being held in filthy conditions at one of the agency's stations in Texas.
Commissioner John Sanders' departure deepened the sense of crisis and added to the rapid turnover inside the agencies responsible for enforcing President Donald Trump's hardline immigration priorities as the US deals with record numbers of migrant families coming across the border.
In a message to employees, Mr Sanders said he would step down on July 5. He did not give a reason for leaving.
"Although I will leave it to you to determine whether I was successful, I can unequivocally say that helping support the amazing men and women of CBP has been the most fulfilling and satisfying opportunity of my career," he said.
In an interview last week, Mr Sanders blamed the problems in detention on a lack of money.
He called on Congress to pass a US$4.5 billion emergency funding bill to address the crisis – legislation the House was planning to take up today.
Democratic leaders in the House proposed tighter requirements for the care of unaccompanied refugee children as they sought to pass the bill.
Lawmakers and aides said they expected the changes, which were concessions to Hispanic and liberal Democrats, to produce a winning tally when the measure comes to a vote later Tuesday.
A full court press by leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was also helping nail down support, though some Democrats had lingering reservations.
The Senate plans to vote on a different, and bipartisan, companion measure in coming days as the chambers race to wrap up the must-do legislation by the end of the week.
The White House is threatening to veto the House bill, saying it would hamstring the administration's border security efforts, and the Senate's top Republican suggested Tuesday that the House should simply accept the Senate measure – which received only a single "nay" vote during a committee vote last week.
At the White House, Mr Trump said that he did not ask for Mr Sanders' resignation – adding that he doesn't think he has ever spoken to the man – but that he is "moving some people around into different locations" amid the crisis.
He defended US border authorities, saying: "The laws are so bad and the asylum rules and laws are so bad that our Border Patrol people, who are so incredible, aren't allowed to do their jobs".
The unprecedented surge of migrant families has left US immigration detention centers severely overcrowded and taxed the government's ability to provide medical care and other attention.
Six children have died since September after being detained by border agents.
The Trump administration has faced a barrage of criticism in recent days over conditions inside the Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas, first reported by The Associated Press: inadequate food, lack of medical care, and older children trying to care for toddlers.
In one case reported in Clint, attorneys said a two-year-old boy without a diaper was being watched by older children.
Several youngsters had the flu. Many were separated from extended family members like aunts and uncles who brought them to the border; others were teenage mothers with babies.
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2019