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Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz Discusses Humanitarian Aid Bill For Border Crisis


Congress is rushing to address the crisis at the border. The House is voting on an emergency funding bill that would send $4.5 billion in humanitarian aid to the border. The government agencies responsible for caring for migrants say they are running out of money. Democratic leadership has been making changes to the bill all day to try to appease members of the House Hispanic and Progressive caucuses. Earlier this afternoon, I spoke with Democratic Congressman Raul Ruiz of California. He's a member of the Hispanic Caucus.

You are voting for this bill, but you also gave a speech today listing a number of concerns about the limits of the bill, including that it doesn't go far enough to protect migrant children's safety. Do you feel that the current version of the bill addresses your concerns?

RAUL RUIZ: No, it does not address my concerns. However, this bill is a desperate act for a desperate situation. The well is dry, and we need to start funding the ability to purchase more food and water and blankets and those provisions. However, the - this bill will not meet the humanitarian needs of women and children under CBP custody and responsibility, and we need to do more.

SHAPIRO: Well, do you worry that by not attaching those provisions like health screenings and safety standards at shelters to this bill, you're missing the best opportunity to get those into law?

RUIZ: I do worry about that. I do worry about that very much. The alternative would be not to fund the basic equipment that is needed. But see; there is a difference, and this is why I have been speaking with leadership on this point - is that there is a difference between purchasing the equipment that this supplemental bill is required to purchase than changing behavior.

So for example, I have a bill called the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in CBP Custody. And under my bill - under the shelter portion, an individual should have 2 meters squared of space. They should have the ability to sleep at night with the lights off, minimum noise between 10 p.m., 6 a.m. And the temperatures in which they're held in - in a humane range versus...

SHAPIRO: But the provisions in your bill seem unlikely to pass on their own given that the compromise...

RUIZ: Correct.

SHAPIRO: ...Bill that does not include those is already opposed by the Republican-controlled Senate. I mean, these seem like...

RUIZ: Correct, correct.

SHAPIRO: ...Goals that are unlikely to be achieved in the current Congress.

RUIZ: As a standalone bill, you are correct. I don't think the president, who argued in court saying that toothbrushes and soap are not basic hygiene necessities for children - I don't think that they will want to treat them humanely, which my bill would force them to do. And that's why we need to pass my bill under language.

This is an opportunity that we can incorporate more of my bill into the appropriations language in which they're trying to do. However, without my bill being law, we will not be able to fully address the humanitarian needs of women and children. And I'm fighting tooth and nail to make sure that this - that we get as much of it into this bill as well as getting my bill passed through committee and ultimately...

SHAPIRO: There's also a concern among Democrats that the bill, as currently written, could allow President Trump to use some of this money to advance his immigration enforcement agenda, which many Democrats oppose. Do you see that as a real risk?

RUIZ: That's - there is specific language in this House bill that prohibits the use of money going to any other agency for any other regions and specifically for deportations and raids. So that's not a concern within the House bill.

SHAPIRO: All right, just in our last 30 seconds, with the July 4 recess coming up and already disagreements between the House and Senate, do you think Congress can afford to go home without passing something the president will sign?

RUIZ: I don't believe so. I think that we need to pass something that the president can sign. And that's why I'm voting for the bill - because although it's imperfect, it is - we're in a desperate situation under a desperate context. And we need to continue to fight for my bill, the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in CBP Custody.

SHAPIRO: That's Democratic Congressman Raul Ruiz of California. Thank you for speaking with us today.

RUIZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.