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Texas Lawmaker Files Bill To Allow Donations To Migrant Kids In Border Patrol Stations

Associated Press
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas

Government agencies in charge of migrant children would be able to accept donations from do-gooders if a proposal bill filed Friday by U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, becomes law.

Reports on conditions at Border Patrol facilities — including drinking water that tastes like bleach and sick children without enough clothing — have sparked widespread outrage and concern. But people who have tried to bring supplies to the facilities have not been allowed to do so.

“We want to make a statement that says, ‘If people need help, we ought to be able to help them.’ It’s pretty straightforward,” Roy said Friday. “When there are human beings in our custody, they obviously ought to be cared for.”

Earlier this week, The Texas Tribune reported on a group that visited a facility in Clint with diapers, toys, soaps and wipes, and was turned away twice. A state lawmaker also hoping to bring supplies to migrant kids said Border Patrol officials said by email they were not accepting donations.

The basis for the rejection is a federal mandate known as the Antideficiency Act, Theresa Brown, a former policy adviser for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, previously told the Tribune. Under the act, the government can’t spend any money or accept any donations other than what Congress has allocated to it.

Roy’s bill, dubbed the Charitable Donations Freedom Act, would amend a section of the Antideficiency Act to ensure that the term “voluntary services” does not include the donation of goods.

Brown said Friday that Roy’s bill, as written, might be too broad since it appears to allow the government to accept any good at any time and limits Congress’ oversight. Still, she said, it would allow Border Patrol to accept the donations people are attempting to give to migrant kids.

Roy said the bill is a starting point.

“We'll work to make sure it's not either too narrow or too broad,” he said.

Alex Samuels is a reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune and a journalism senior at The University of Texas at Austin. She came to the Tribune in fall 2016 as a newsletters fellow, writing the daily Brief and contributing to the water, education and health newsletters. Alex previously worked for USA Today College as both a collegiate correspondent and their first-ever breaking news correspondent. She has also worked for the Daily Dot where she covered politics, race, and social issues.