Outrage spread throughout the United States when news broke last week that a detention facility in Clint, Texas, was holding immigrant children in an unsanitary facility. Also outrageous: When a group of concerned citizens gathered much-needed supplies to donate to the children—including toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and toys—U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) refused to accept the help, according to Texas Tribune.
This didn’t surprise Representative Terry Canales (D-Texas), who told CNN that he emailed local border agents asking what donations were needed from the public and was told, “We don’t accept donations.” Canales told CNN, “It just befuddles me and I think it’s just heartbreaking to know that there’s so many people that want to help, and that help is being denied for no definable reasons that anybody’s been able to communicate.”
— Terry Canales (@TerryCanales40) June 22, 2019
Theresa Cardinal Brown, who worked for CBP as a policy adviser 2005-2007, told CNN it would be illegal for the agency to accept donations from the public. “The short answer is, it’s against the law,” she said. The Antideficiency Act says, “government cannot accept goods and services without remuneration, because it cannot spend or use things that have not been appropriated to it by Congress,” Brown explained to CNN. “If [CBP] was able to accept donations outside of that it would be overspending what it was authorized to spend.”
A CBP official who spoke with reporters on Monday (June 24) said the organization is working with lawyers to determine if they can receive public donations in the future. But that official also said CBP has all the supplies it needs, including hygiene products for children. “We’re using operational funding to provide those things. But those things are available now and they have been continuously,” the unnamed official said. “So we are looking at the possibility of using some of those donations going forward. But those items, it’s important to note, are available now.”
That statement contradicts a report from The New York Times that described the Clint facility as a “chaotic scene of sickness and filth.”