A congressional delegation inspected facilities operated by the Customs and Border Patrol agency where asylum-seekers were being held in inhumane conditions. The delegation included Pete Aguilar (CA31), Joaquin Castro (TX20), Judy Chu (CA27), Madeleine Dean (PA4), Veronica Escobar (TX16), Sylvia Garcia (TX29), Joe Kennedy (MA4) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY14), Ayanna Pressley (MA7), Rashida Tlaib (MI13), Norma Torrez (CA35), Greg Stanton (AZ9), Lori Trahan (MA3), and Marc Veasey (TX33).
Joaquin Castro: “At the El Paso Border Patrol Station #1, women from Cuba, some grandmothers, crammed into a prison-like cell with one toilet, but no running water to drink from or wash their hands with. Concrete floors, cinder-block walls, steel toilets. Many said they had not bathed for 15 days. Some had been separated from children, some had been held for more than 50 days. Several complained they had not received their medications, including one for epilepsy. They asked us to take down their names and let everyone know they need help. They also feared retribution. We then went to the Clint Border Patrol Station that warehouses children and some parents. The tents outside, used during the surge recently, were dark and surrounded by chain link fences. The showers — mobile units — were dank, dirty and only too small in number for the hundreds of people there just a few weeks ago. And a boy, perhaps three years old, pressed his face against the dirty glass of a locked steel door. He smiled big and tried to talk to us through the thick glass. His family — or another — ate Ramen on the floor a few feet away.”
Judy Chu: “We just left the El Paso border patrol station … what we saw was appalling and disgusting. We talked to a group of women, detainees who said that they didn’t have running water, that one was an epileptic and she couldn’t get her medication. They were separated from their children. They’d been there over 50 days. One woman said that the border patrol agent told her if she wanted water, just to drink from a toilet … There seriously has to be some change.”
Madeleine Dean: “Just left the first CBP facility. The conditions are far worse than we ever could have imagined. 15 women in their 50s- 60s sleeping in a small concrete cell, no running water. Weeks without showers. All of them separated from their families. This is a human rights crisis. We were met with hostility from the guards, but this is nothing compared to their treatment of the people being held.
The detainees are constantly abused and verbally harassed with no cause. Deprived physically and dehumanized mentally – everyday. This is a human rights issue.”
Joe Kennedy: “Spent the morning in TX at Clint and El Paso detention facilities. Big takeaways — 1) CBP was very resistant to Congressional oversight. They tried to restrict what we saw, take our phones, block photos and video. Atmosphere was contentious and uncooperative. 2) Facilities are wholly inadequate. Cells maxed to capacity, concrete floors … It felt jail-like. No way to keep a child or innocent human being. Group of 13 women from Cuba were in tears when we spoke with them.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “Just left the 1st CBP facility. I see why CBP officers were being so physically &sexually threatening towards me. Officers were keeping women in cells w/ no water & had told them to drink out of the toilets. This was them on their GOOD behavior in front of members of Congress. After I forced myself into a cell w/ women & began speaking to them, one of them described their treatment at the hands of officers as “psychological warfare” — waking them at odd hours for no reason, calling them wh*res, etc. Tell me what about that is due to a “lack of funding?” Now I’m on my way to Clint, where the Trump admin was denying children toothpaste and soap. This has been horrifying so far. It is hard to understate the enormity of the problem. We’re talking systemic cruelty w/ a dehumanizing culture that treats them like animals. What’s haunting is that the women I met with today told me in no uncertain terms that they would experience retribution for telling us what they shared. They all began sobbing — out of fear of being punished, out of sickness, out of desperation, lack of sleep, trauma, despair.”
Rashida Tlaib: “We can’t just focus on the children anymore. I met grandmothers, mothers and fathers who are suffering. This is devastating. The look in one father’s eyes broke me. I can’t look away. A little boy not more than 4 years old asked me where his Papa was through a glass door. An Abuela hasn’t seen her grandson in 40 days & has no idea where he is. A woman, pregnant w/ her first child, just wants to be w/ her family in FL. A father teared up telling me that his wife, 8 yr old daughter & 14 yr old son have been sleeping on concrete floors in a tent for 4 days. They haven’t been able to shower, no real food (chips & juice boxes) & so scared of being separated.”