Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Resigns Amid Detention Center Controversy


Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders is stepping down from his role next month amid controversy over the living conditions of migrant children in detention facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Sanders told agency employees Tuesday that his resignation will be effective July 5.

However, he did not directly indicate what led to the sudden resignation, or whether recent events played a role in his decision, according to The Associated Press.

“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,” Sanders wrote in message to his employees.

Sanders had assumed his current role in April, rising to fill the hole left by previous commissioner Kevin McAleenan.

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McAleenan had departed the role for a Cabinet-level position as acting Department of Homeland Security secretary following the departure of Kirstjen Nielsen.

During his brief tenure as acting commissioner, Sanders frequently advocated for an increase in resources and funding to immigrant detention centers for the purpose of alleviating the humanitarian crisis at the southern border.

“For months, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been very clear about the situation on the southern border, which is both a humanitarian and an operational crisis,” Sanders said in a May statement.

“To manage the unprecedented number of people in our custody, CBP began transporting hundreds of families by bus and aircraft from the U.S. Border Patrol’s severely overcrowded processing facilities to less-crowded stations along the Southwest border,” he continued.

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“We may need to take additional action for the welfare of those in our custody and the health and safety of everyone, including our law enforcement personnel and support staff at our processing facilities.”

Sanders urged Congress last week to approve President Donald Trump‘s request for more than $4 billion in supplemental funding to address the issue.

Congressional Democrats initially blocked attempts by the Republican-led Senate Appropriations Committee to include those provisions in a recent supplemental budget package — a move that outraged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

New supplemental appropriations packages to address the issue were still being mulled over in both chambers of Congress this week, but funding had yet to be officially allocated as of Tuesday.

“After liberal members of the Democratic-held House raised concerns about treatment of migrant children, the party released a revised bill Tuesday that would set health and safety standards for CBP to follow,” CNBC reported.

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“The House is expected to vote on the measure later Tuesday.”

Without the funding, however, conditions in one detention facility in El Paso, Texas, have suffered dramatically, according to the AP.

Controversy erupted as a result of the AP’s report, in which several lawyers who visited the facility indicated that 250 detained children are currently being held, many of them without proper food, water, sanitation, medical care or clothing.

Five immigrant children have died in the past year in government-run migrant facilities, according to the AP.

But Sanders has argued on multiple occasions that the lack of funding has left the department with few options.

“The death of a child is always a terrible thing, but here is a situation where, because there is not enough funding … they can’t move the people out of our custody,” Sanders told the AP last week.

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