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Texas Congressman Discusses Border Facilities And How To Prevent Future Deaths


And we're joined now by Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas, who visited the border last week after that 7-year-old girl from Guatemala died in U.S. custody. He is the incoming chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Thanks for making the time to join us today.

JOAQUIN CASTRO: Thank you for having me.

SHAPIRO: I want to ask about something you said in a statement after this second death was announced. You said many questions remain unanswered, including how many children have died in CBP custody. Are you suggesting that other children may have died that we're unaware of?

CASTRO: Yeah, you're right. It's remarkable that Congress has not gotten an official count of how many children have died in CBP custody during this administration or even in the last year. And so because the president has taken such a dehumanizing and criminalizing tone when it comes to asylum-seekers and migrants, I think it's important to get an answer to that question. And until we get an official count, I think with this administration, anything's possible.

SHAPIRO: When you visit these facilities, do you see an obvious shortage of medical care?

CASTRO: Oh, it's - you know, if you go into one of these facilities where Felipe was kept and where Jakelin was kept, it is like watching an episode of "Locked Up Abroad" that used to run on the National Geographic channel. There are literally a mass of humanity strewn across the floor in Mylar, what looks like foil blankets, people stepping over each other to move around, toilets that are exposed, so there's no privacy when you go to the restroom. No American who went in there and looked at that would be proud of how our country treats these people.


CASTRO: Nobody could walk in there and say that they're proud.

SHAPIRO: And how do you respond to Customs and Border Protection saying that it is now going to review policies regarding children in its custody and explore ways to relieve capacity? Do you think that's an appropriate response?

CASTRO: I think that it is an appropriate response. I think it's a promising response. I hope that they will move on that quickly. I hope that they will ask Congress for the medical resources and supplies and training and equipment and personnel that they need to properly treat the migrants who are arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. But also it should be noted that the lack of equipment and training and staff also presents a danger to the personnel from CBP who work there to the agents who are working these jobs. So it - of course it's about the migrants, but it's also about the folks employed by the federal government. So I hope that they act swiftly.

SHAPIRO: The CBP has also said parents bear responsibility for this for placing their children in harm's way by making the dangerous trip north to the border. Do you think there's some truth to that?

CASTRO: You know, I have to confess that I find that a very curious argument because it's this type of migration that made America what it is. It's this type of migration that has come from Europe, that has come from Asia and really all over the world to the United States and not just this year but in the last few hundred years. And so...

SHAPIRO: Although the specific journey across the desert through these dangerous conditions is different from other forms of migration that we've seen.

CASTRO: Sure. Folks used to come here on ships, which was also very, very dangerous. And there were never arguments about blaming folks back then for the dangers that were presented to themselves and their kids. And I would argue that in the same way, you have many people from Central America who are fleeing violence and danger and who seek freedom and safety in the United States just like the Irish did, just like the Germans and Italians did generations before.

SHAPIRO: That's Congressman Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas, chairman-elect of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Thank you again for joining us today.

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