Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16), member of the House Judiciary Committee and Freshman Representative of the Hispanic Caucus, led a delegation to El Paso and Clint to investigate several facilities used to detain immigrants.
The visit to the Border Patrol stations came on the heels of a report that revealed a secret Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents, where users allegedly made controversial comments about the migrants being held at the facilities, the border in general, and ‘throwing burritos’ at the visiting congressional detail.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), and Congressman Joe Kennedy III (MA-4) attended the event, touring the facility at Hondo Pass and the Clint Border Patrol Station.
As Ocasio-Cortez left Hondo Pass, she shared with members of the press a story she had been told of a woman forced to drink water from the toilet in her stall.
Later she tweeted about the experience.
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.
In Clint, two groups of protesters gathered. While the Representatives toured the facility, the groups clashed – shouting at each other about the needs of children at the facilities.
The hostilities continued when members of the House addressed the press – with Islamic slurs being thrown at Congresswoman Tlaib.
Later in the afternoon, on Twitter, Representative Joe Kennedy described the entire tour atmosphere as “contentious and uncooperative,” writing the following in a thread of Tweets:
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.
In the heat of an El Paso June day, approximately 200 protesters gathered to challenge child detention and cheer on presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke.
With cars parked up to a 1/4 mile away and a hoard of press in attendance, local El Paso politicians spoke out against child detention before welcoming O’Rourke.
Roughly five counter-protesters chanted from across the street. When they crossed to be closer, they were met with mostly annoyance.
Their chants of “finish the wall” were met by responses of “we are the wall” from individuals who blocked their approach.
O’Rourke took to the stage, pausing for selfies and handshakes as he snaked through the crowd. “Thank you for bearing witness to what is happening in our name, right now, in the United States of America,” he began.
“The only way this is going to get better, the only way that it is going to change, the only way that you can really be here for these kids is to be here right now for those kids and to share with our fellow Americans just what is being done in our name.”
O’Rourke called the detention of immigrant the largest incarceration of children who had not been convicted of a crime in American history – second only the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.
Prior to his arrival at Clint, O’Rourke and his team visited with families at Casa Del Migrante, the largest shelter for migrants in Juarez.
There they spoke to families and individuals who had been sent to Mexico to await their court date, including a 19-year-old woman who was separated from her parents and younger siblings.
Of the experience, O’Rourke shared “We met people, our fellow human beings, who are leaving some of the most horrific conditions that you can imagine.
The O’Rourke campaign released a statement yesterday, reading, “Earlier this year, O’Rourke released a sweeping immigration plan to immediately end family separation and reunite those already separated, protect asylum seekers, create a pathway to citizenship for 11 million people and make naturalization easier for 9 million eligible immigrants, establish a first-of-its-kind community-based visa, and only require detention for those with criminal backgrounds who represent a danger to our communities. His plan would also more than double U.S. investment in Central America to address the violence and instability in the Northern Triangle driving so many families to flee.”
Author and Photos by – Jordyn Rozensky / Frontera Studio – El Paso Herald Post
On Sunday, Austin Savage and five of his friends huddled into an SUV and went to an El Paso Target, loading up on diapers, wipes, soaps and toys.
About $340 later, the group headed to a Border Patrol facility holding migrant children in nearby Clint with the goal of donating their goods. Savage said he and his friends had read an article from The New York Times detailing chaos, sickness and filth in the overcrowded facility, and they wanted to help.
But when they arrived, they found that the lobby was closed. The few Border Patrol agents — Savage said there were between eight and 10 of them — moving in and out of a parking facility ignored them.
For a while, the group stood there dumbfounded about what to do next. Ultimately, they decided to pack up and head home. Savage said he wasn’t completely surprised by the rejection; before he left, the group spotted a discarded plastic bag near the lobby door holding toothpaste and soap that had a note attached to it: “I heard y’all need soap + toothpaste for kids.”
“A good friend of mine is an immigration attorney, and he warned us that we were going to get rejected,” Savage said. “We were aware of that, but it’s just the idea of doing something as opposed to passively allowing this to occur.”
Border Patrol facilities are only supposed to hold detained migrants for a short period of time, until they are processed. But an influx of migrants along the southwest border has stretched facilities in places like Clint and McAllen beyond capacity, leading to what people who have visited them have called unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
A slew of other sympathetic people, advocacy groups and lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have expressed a desire to lend a hand to the kids housed in the facilities. But after purchasing items like toys, soap, toothbrushes, diapers and medicine — especially as news reports circulate of facilities having drinking water that tastes like bleach and sick children without enough clothing — they’ve been met with a common message: No donations are being accepted.
“It makes me feel powerless knowing there’s children taking care of toddlers and little kids,” said Gabriel Acuña, who grew up in Clint and attempted to visit the facility in his hometown Sunday morning. “Knowing what’s happening in your community and that you can’t give these kids supplies to clean or clothe themselves — it’s heartbreaking.
“For God’s sake, they’re kids, man.”
The substandard living conditions have been described in great detail over the past few weeks. Last week, an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice argued in court that the government shouldn’t be required to give migrant children inside Border Patrol detention facilities toothbrushes, soap, towels or showers.
Most have assigned blame for the substandard living conditions to federal officials who are unsure of how to handle the influx of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. The surge has also overwhelmed facilities and led to serious health and safety risks for those sheltered in them. Some kids and teens have spent nearly a month without adequate food or water. Nearly a dozen others in a McAllen facilitywere sick with the flu.
Democratic state Rep. Terry Canales of Edinburg tweeted this weekend that he wrote to Border Patrol asking for a list of acceptable items to donate. He said officials told his office by email they do not accept donations. An official with Border Patrol did not respond to a request for comment.
“The whole situation is disgusting, but I’m always hopeful that the better part of us as human beings will shine through,” said Canales, whose district neighbors the McAllen facility. “Those children feel like the world has given up on them, and we have to fight for them.”
Canales said he had a conference call Monday morning with Rodolfo Karisch, U.S. Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector chief, and had a “short but productive conservation” about the living conditions for kids being held in processing facilities.
“These kids are being underserved, and they’re not getting what they need,” Canales said. “We discussed diapers, hygiene products, and I pressed upon him that from a PR perspective that it looks terrible we’re not meeting their needs and they’re not accepting donations from the public.
“He, to some extent, agreed with me and said he would get back with me and see how we can collaborate,” he said. “So the lines of communication are open.”
Acuña, who attempted to donate bars of soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste from a local Dollar Tree this weekend, said a lot of people have reached out to him after he publicized his encounter at the Clint facility. He said he is working to get in contact with town leadership to come up with a plan of action moving forward.
“If the government isn’t going to do anything, then let the community help and do something for these kids,” Acuña said.
Savage, meanwhile, plans to visit the same Clint facility Monday with the same diapers, wipes, soaps and toys. He’s going with low expectations — especially since a number of kids have been moved from the facility after reports of poor living conditions.
“We imagine they will reject it,” he said.
If they do, he plans to turn to local organizations, such as the Annunciation House, that are housing families that Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained and separated on the El Paso-Juarez border. (Click here to see how you can help children detained along the border).
“In an ideal world, the facility would accept it, so we’re going to ask with all sincerity that they do,” Savage said. “Hopefully they say yes, but we want to show that these are not circumstances preventing these children from being taken care of, but a policy.
“Even if we get rejected,” he said, “at least we made the effort.”