WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 18:  Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) questions acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan while he testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on July 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. The hearing is on "The Trump Administration's Child Separation Policy."  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Win McNamee/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 18: Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) questions acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan while he testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on July 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. The hearing is on "The Trump Administration's Child Separation Policy." (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:14
Cummings erupts at Trump's DHS chief
PHOTO: MyHeritage
Now playing
01:01
Watch old photos come to life using AI
PHOTO: CNN/Getty Images
Now playing
06:46
McEnany says she expected 'peaceful' rally on January 6. Keilar rolls the tape
Now playing
01:26
No, Tom Cruise isn't on TikTok. It's a deepfake
PHOTO: ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live
Now playing
02:02
Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall reunite in 'Coming 2 America'
PHOTO: Courtesy AirlingRatings.com
Now playing
03:06
Virgin Atlantic CEO: We support Covid vaccine passports
Now playing
01:19
Warren proposes wealth tax: 'It's time for them to pay a fair share'
Now playing
01:36
Marriott CEO: Vaccinations are 'the key' to travel recovery
Now playing
01:23
'There should be no threats': Biden's message to union-busters
Ashley Vanderbilt Former QAnon believer
PHOTO: CNN
Ashley Vanderbilt Former QAnon believer
Now playing
07:40
Former QAnon believer shares bonkers conspiracy theory about Biden
snl.fauci.vaccine.orig_00005420.png
snl.fauci.vaccine.orig_00005420.png
Now playing
01:24
'SNL' has 'Dr. Fauci' helping people get vaccinated

Editor’s Note: Clara Long is the acting deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch; Elora Mukherjee is clinical professor of law and director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writers. View more opinion at CNN.

(CNN) —  

Over the course of this summer, the American people – across party lines – have shown that they reject the hate and dehumanization of immigrants that appears to have motivated last weekend’s mass shooting in El Paso. Many are outraged over the cruel neglect of children in custody along the border – child abuse as immigration policy – and this has spurred Congress to exercise some much-needed oversight.

Clara Long
PHOTO: Courtesy of Human Rights Watch
Clara Long
Elora Mukherjee
PHOTO: Courtesy of Elora Mukherjee
Elora Mukherjee

But the test is whether legislators will use the power of the purse to make a real difference for children by keeping families together and shifting the focus away from detention.

With senators and representatives home for the August recess, the American people have a pivotal opportunity to demand change now.

In mid-June, we interviewed children detained at the US Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas, as monitors for the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, which requires the government to release children from detention as promptly as possible and to hold children in safe and sanitary conditions when they are detained.

We found dirty, hungry, sick, scared children held far longer than the 72-hour limit imposed by law, with some children detained for weeks or more. We had participated in Flores monitoring visits at controversial detention centers in the past. But nothing prepared us for what we saw, heard, and smelled in Clint. As lawyers, as mothers, as Americans, we had to speak out.

03:01 - Source: CNN
DC National Guard commander: 'Unusual' Pentagon restrictions slowed response to Capitol riot
Commanding General District of Columbia National Guard Major General William J. Walker testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs/Rules and Administration hearing to examine the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol on Capitol Hill on March 3, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Nash / POOL / AFP) (Photo by GREG NASH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: GREG NASH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Commanding General District of Columbia National Guard Major General William J. Walker testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs/Rules and Administration hearing to examine the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol on Capitol Hill on March 3, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Nash / POOL / AFP) (Photo by GREG NASH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
03:01
DC National Guard commander: 'Unusual' Pentagon restrictions slowed response to Capitol riot
FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the January 6th insurrection, in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on March 2, 2021. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: MANDEL NGAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the January 6th insurrection, in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on March 2, 2021. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
02:55
Watch FBI director debunk conspiracy theories pushed by Trump supporters
abrams
PHOTO: CNN
abrams
Now playing
00:51
Abrams on voting rights: We're fighting to protect our democracy from domestic enemies
Goya Foods President Robert Unanue speaks at a press conference with Carlos Vecchio, the Venezuelan Ambassador who is recognized by the United States on December 21, 2020 in Doral, Florida. The two held the press conference to discuss details of a recent shipment of humanitarian aid to Venezuela, donated by Goya Foods. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Goya Foods President Robert Unanue speaks at a press conference with Carlos Vecchio, the Venezuelan Ambassador who is recognized by the United States on December 21, 2020 in Doral, Florida. The two held the press conference to discuss details of a recent shipment of humanitarian aid to Venezuela, donated by Goya Foods. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:24
Goya CEO under fire for false Trump election claims
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) speaks to CNN's Alisyn Camerota about why he thinks that the Republican Party will move on from former President Donald Trump.
PHOTO: CNN
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) speaks to CNN's Alisyn Camerota about why he thinks that the Republican Party will move on from former President Donald Trump.
Now playing
02:03
Kinzinger: Trump is a loser and we will move on
Now playing
04:17
NYC mayor says Gov. Cuomo should resign if allegations are true
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 23: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during the daily media briefing at the Office of the Governor of the State of New York on July 23, 2020 in New York City. The Governor said the state liquor authority has suspended 27 bar and restaurant alcohol licenses for violations of social distancing rules as public officials try to keep the coronavirus outbreak under control. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Jeenah Moon/Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 23: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during the daily media briefing at the Office of the Governor of the State of New York on July 23, 2020 in New York City. The Governor said the state liquor authority has suspended 27 bar and restaurant alcohol licenses for violations of social distancing rules as public officials try to keep the coronavirus outbreak under control. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:29
NYT: Third woman comes forward against Gov. Andrew Cuomo
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 25: U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House for Baltimore, Maryland on May 25, 2020 in Washington, DC. The Trumps will attend a Memorial Day ceremony at the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine despite objections by Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young, whose residents remain under a stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 25: U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House for Baltimore, Maryland on May 25, 2020 in Washington, DC. The Trumps will attend a Memorial Day ceremony at the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine despite objections by Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young, whose residents remain under a stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:10
Trump got vaccinated in secret. Here's why this matters
Kinzinger
PHOTO: CNN
Kinzinger
Now playing
03:55
Republican lawmaker reacts to being on Trump's 'enemies list'
Former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during the first day of the Republican convention at the Mellon auditorium on August 24, 2020 in Washington, DC (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images
Former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during the first day of the Republican convention at the Mellon auditorium on August 24, 2020 in Washington, DC (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
04:41
Haley flip flops on Trump, praising his 'strong speech'
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 26: Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference being held in the Hyatt Regency on February 26, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Begun in 1974, CPAC brings together conservative organizations, activists, and world leaders to discuss issues important to them. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 26: Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference being held in the Hyatt Regency on February 26, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Begun in 1974, CPAC brings together conservative organizations, activists, and world leaders to discuss issues important to them. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Now playing
04:12
Women allege sexual misconduct against North Carolina GOP lawmaker
trump investigators murray dnt 03012021
PHOTO: CNN
trump investigators murray dnt 03012021
Now playing
02:56
Five elected investigators are turning their attention to Trump
Now playing
03:12
Avlon on CPAC: It was a hyperpartisan temper tantrum
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at a COVID-19 vaccination site in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)
PHOTO: Seth Wenig/Pool/AP
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at a COVID-19 vaccination site in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)
Now playing
02:26
Haberman: This is the first time I can remember Cuomo apologizing
Now playing
02:11
'Sad': Kinzinger blasts Hawley's CPAC remarks

Since then, the evidence of child abuse in US Customs and Border Protection facilities has become indisputable. A government watchdog within the Department of Homeland Security issued a damning report about the prolonged detention, overcrowding and mistreatment of children and families in Border Patrol custody. NBC News obtained nearly 30 incident reports documenting alleged abuse, sexual assault, and mistreatment of detained children in Yuma, Arizona. Agents themselves confirmed the filthy, overcrowded conditions to the New York Times.