While the White House and conservative media continue trying to spin the abhorrent conditions in migrant detention centers after a visit from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other members of Congress, new reports shed further light on the dire conditions in our immigration jails.
In a report released by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General on Tuesday, the office found “dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults” in Rio Grande Valley facilities. In some cases, children were held longer than federally allowed, given little spare clothing, no access to showers, and no hot meals, completely contrary to previous attempts by Customs and Border Protection leadership to deny reports of mistreatment.
The report also included photos including the one above showing the overcrowded facilities, with immigrants being housed in chain link pens and holding cells. Some rooms only had enough space for people to stand. In one room, 88 men were held in a room designated for 41 people, according to the Inspector General’s findings.
Conditions for children held in the detention centers were also found to be deeply troubling:
For example, children at three of the five Border Patrol facilities we visited had no access to showers, despite the TEDS standards requiring that “reasonable efforts” be made to provide showers to children approaching 48 hours in detention. At these facilities, children had limited access to a change of clothes; Border Patrol had few spare clothes and no laundry facilities. While all facilities had infant formula, diapers, baby wipes, and juice and snacks for children, we observed that two facilities had not provided children access to hot meals — as is required by the TEDS standards — until the week we arrived.
The jailed adults weren’t faring much better. The report found some had not showered for weeks and were still in the same clothes they were wearing when they were processed. Some adults were only receiving bologna sandwiches to eat, to the point where they became constipated and required medical attention.
The office even ended one of its inspections early because of how desperate some people detained at the facility appeared, calling the situation a “ticking time bomb.” One man’s sign raised to his cell window read, “Help, 40 Day, Help.” From the report again:
Moreover, we ended our site visit at one Border Patrol facility early because our presence was agitating an already difficult situation. Specifically, when detainees observed us, they banged on the cell windows, shouted, pressed notes to the window with their time in custody, and gestured to evidence of their time in custody (e.g., beards).
The report also contained comment from Homeland Security, which called the border situation an “acute and worsening crisis” that officials weren’t prepared for.
And while at least seven migrant children have died while either in or shortly after having left U.S. custody, federal agencies don’t seem to be taking children’s health issues very seriously, according to a report from BuzzFeed News. Two registered nurses who have treated immigrant children at a hospital in the Rio Grande Valley told the site that children taken to the facility are in such poor health, they’re “on the borderline” of needing specialized assistance to stop them from going into respiratory or cardiac arrest.
The nurses also said they saw children come in with such severe breathing problems, dehydration, and fevers that it was clear they needed treatment earlier. One of the nurses also said Border Patrol agents accompanying sick children have called immigrants “disgusting” and said she’s been asked by agents if the children using American hospitals upsets her.
“It’s a cycle because we send them out healthy but they’re just going to end up getting sick again because they’re going back to the same conditions,” the nurse told BuzzFeed. “Border Patrol only brings them in when they’re 99 percent bad. If this is how they treat kids I don’t want to know how they treat the parents.”