Tlaib hits back at Pelosi over border bill criticism

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., left, makes a point with Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., at  a House Oversight and Reform Committee meeting.

Washington — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is taking heat from progressive lawmakers including Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit after she dismissed their concerns about a border aid package that recently passed Congress.

Asked about the criticism she has faced over the $4.5 billion border aid bill, Pelosi had this to say over the weekend to columnist Maureen Dowd of the New York Times

"All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world. But they didn't have any following. They're four people, and that's how many votes they got."

Pelosi of California was referring to Tlaib among the "squad" of four Democratic freshman lawmakers that includes Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

Tlaib, who voted against the border package along with the other three, hit back Sunday on ABC's "This Week," saying Pelosi should "honor" their presence in Congress. 

"You know, people like us — people like me and Ayanna and Ilhan and Alexandria — we're reflective of our nation in many ways. ... People like us — people of color — have been missing in the chamber," Tlaib said. 

"Honor the fact that we are there. That 650,000 people are represented by each and every one single of us," she added. 

"It is very disappointing that the speaker would ever try to diminish our voices in so many ways."

Tlaib also defended her vote against the aid package meant to tackle the surge of migrants at the Southern border, saying she would "not throw more money at a broken system." 

"What our country is doing is creating a generation of children who will remember what our country did to them," Tlaib said.

"I will not vote for something that is broken and deteriorated and is inhumane. That is a choice I make and a conscious choice, and I can tell you my district supports me 100 percent." 

Tlaib, who sits on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, last week visited a Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas, that has made headlines over allegations that the children held there have inadequate food, water and sanitation.

Tlaib said she'd heard from Customs and Border Protection agents while touring the Clint facility. 

"Three agents took me aside, away from my colleagues, and said, 'More money is not going to fix this.' That they were not trained to separate children," Tlaib said.

"That they don’t want to separate 2-year-olds away from their mothers. That’s not what they were trained for, that’s not what they signed up for in their service to our country. They signed up to protect the border, not to separate children, not to put people in cages."

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan on Sunday defended conditions at U.S. Border Patrol stations, calling the border crisis "an extraordinarily challenging situation" on ABC's "This Week." 

McAleenan disputed the reports of deplorable conditions at the border station in Clint, where the Times reported Saturday on a stench on children's clothing and outbreaks of scabies, shingles and chickenpox. He called the claims "unsubstantiated." 

“Because there’s adequate food and water,” he said. “Because the facility’s cleaned every day, because I know what our standards are, and I know they’re been followed because we have tremendous levels of oversight. Five levels of oversight.

“Inadequate food, inadequate water and unclean cells. None of those have been substantiated.”

President Donald Trump without evidence Sunday accused the news media of “phony and exaggerated accounts" about the detention center conditions. 

“Border Patrol, and others in Law Enforcement, have been doing a great job. We said there was a Crisis - the Fake News & the Dems said it was ‘manufactured,’” Trump wrote.

Federal detention centers “are crowded (which we ... brought up, not them) because the Dems won’t change the Loopholes and Asylum. Big Media Con Job!”

Tlaib dismissed McAleenan, noting his accounts contradicted a recent inspector general report on detention center conditions that documented severe overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults.

Tlaib said she'd heard from women at the Clint facility seeking water to drink and were told to drink from the toilet. 

She said she "absolutely" agrees with Ocasio-Cortez's description of the detention centers as "concentration camps." 

"Because it's traumatic. I don't know how to explain to people what we saw," Tlaib said. 

"The mere touch, me holding their hand broke them down in tears. That tells you they're under a lot of trauma, that they're in a facility that is dehumanizing. And this is a choice by this current administration they are choosing to not allow asylum seekers to go through the legal process."