by Lucy McAuliffe


A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to sit in on a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Markup at Capitol Hill. In this hearing, members of the Congress Committee on Appropriations were discussing topics such as budgeting and the current issues in immigration. Though an extremely long meeting, lasting the entire day and overflowing into the following day, there was one moment that stood out to me in particular.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) was presenting her second amendment of the day, which called for a larger budget and better care for pregnant women in detention centers. She shared multiple true stories of women who were pregnant and gave birth while detained, stating that it wasn’t uncommon for women to not receive proper prenatal care, have miscarriages, or give birth in shackles. As a firsthand spectator, a woman, and a citizen of this country, I was devastated to hear these stories, and very hopeful that this amendment would be passed.

Unfortunately, the tables turned when Congressman Kevin Yoder (R-KS) fired back at Lee, claiming that her previous statement was too vague, and it was not worth spending the budget on. Throughout the entire day, Yoder had been a very powerful player, and was able to get many other members of the majority on his side, even in such a controversial amendment as this one. As a spectator, I could see how strong his influence was on the majority of the committee members. Some sided with Lee, including Lucielle Roybal-Allard, who contributed additional personal stories of pregnant women in detention centers, as she was able to travel to the border and visit the facilities. Regardless of her remarks and the powerful remarks of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the amendment failed.

As someone who has traveled to the border, the failure of this amendment tore out an extra piece of my heart. Though I did not visit a detention center in particular, I was able to serve as an interpreter for a nurse, and saw firsthand the poor condition that these migrants are in. The fact that the health and well-being of humans, pregnant humans in particular, is not a top priority for our government is appalling. Seeing this showed me the importance of being an active member of your community, and using your voice as much as possible. As Lee shared these accounts, another door was opened for me in the world of immigration, and now I am able to share with the world this new perspective on an issue we hear about every day. All of the dimensions of the immigration system make it such a complex issue, and give us the ability to make so much change in the future.

Lucy McAuliffe is a senior in high school who is deeply passionate about immigration issues and working to change the country for the better. 

[back to September 2018 issue]

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