‘Appalling and Disgusting’ Living Conditions for Migrants

U.S. Border Patrol agents faced a barrage of criticism on Tuesday after congressional officials visited detention centers for illegal immigrants in Texas, where they denounced the “appalling” living conditions.

On Monday, Democratic members of Congress visited centers in El Paso and Clint, two border towns in Texas where illegal immigrants are being detained.

The visit took place on the same day that ProPublica, an independent news site, revealed the existence of a Facebook group run by border patrol agents. In the group, agents exchange mocking and insulting comments about migrants and politicians opposed to President Donald Trump’s program to combat illegal immigration. According to ProPublica, this secret group has around 9,500 members.

Border Patrol chief, Carla Provost, condemned the messages as “completely inappropriate” and “contrary to the honor and integrity” of the agents. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency announced that it has launched an investigation into this Facebook group.

Some of the messages contained altered images, including one with a smiling President Trump holding the head of New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in front of his crotch.

Other messages describe Ocasio-Cortez and her colleague Veronica Escobar of Texas as “hoes,” while an agent encouraged others to “hurl a burrito at these bitches.”

Ocasio-Cortez said she was not surprised by these messages, especially after seeing the way migrants are treated in the facilities she visited. “It’s just indicative of the violent culture we saw,” she said.

Human Rights Watch denounced the lack of hygiene and overcrowding in the center in Clint, which housed 300 unaccompanied minors at the time. The authorities have since transferred the majority of minors to other shelters. Furthermore, the photo of the bodies of a migrant and his young daughter lying lifeless on the banks of the Rio Grande shocked the public and served as a reminder of the dangers faced by those trying to cross the natural border between Mexico and the United States.

On Monday, the head of the congressional delegation, Joaquin Castro, recounted the story of the lives of some 20 women in El Paso. According to Castro, some of them had been locked up for nearly two months at the Customs and Border Protection detention center.

While speaking to journalists, he described cells with “no running water” where the prisoners had to “drink water from the toilets.”

In a video filmed discreetly in a cell without a bed, the congressman also shows these women in sleeping bags explaining that they are deprived of showers and lack access to medication.

Another Democrat, Judy Chu, condemned the “appalling and disgusting” detention conditions, while Democrat Madeleine Dean, spoke of “the hostility from the guards.”

Trump’s Reaction

President Trump stated that he had not seen the Facebook group’s posts, but he believed that border patrol officers were dissatisfied with the decisions made by Congress regarding immigration.

“So, the Border Patrol, they’re patriots, they are great people. They love our country. They know who’s coming in,” Trump said.

Faced with a massive influx of migrants from Central America to the southern border of the United States, the government declared a policy of zero tolerance with respect to immigration in the summer of 2018, including the separation of migrant families. Adults were held in detention while children were placed in rapidly overcrowding shelters.

But the courts banned this policy, and unaccompanied minors must now be returned to their families or placed under the supervision of the Department of Health and Human Services after 72 hours of detention.

With 144,000 people taken into custody in May, border detention facilities are “oversaturated” because they “were never designed to deal with the volume of migrants coming our way,” CBP Deputy Commissioner Robert Perez told CNN on Tuesday. He denied accusations of mistreatment or lack of hygiene facilities for detainees, assuring that there are “very strict standards” for access to water and hygiene products.

To deal with the migration crisis, Congress approved an emergency budget of $4.6 billion last week. It provides funding for the reception of minors, as well as for border control.

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