EL PASO, Texas — A migrant being detained at a Customs and Border Protection detention facility in Northeast El Paso told U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez they were forced to drink from a toilet, the New York Democrat told reporters.
Ocasio-Cortez, U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) and other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus led a delegation of lawmakers to several facilities used to detain migrants in the El Paso area.
“There’s abuse in this facility,” Ocasio-Cortez said following her tour of the facility in Northeast El Paso. “This is (CBP) on their best behavior. And they put (detainees) in a room with no running water, and these women were being told by CBP officers to drink out of the toilet. They were drinking water out of the toilet and that was them knowing a congressional visit was coming. This is CBP on their best behavior.”
Ocasio-Cortez also tweeted about her visit.
“It’s not just the kids. It’s everyone. People drinking out of toilets, officers laughing in front of members (of) Congress,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Monday. “I brought it up to their superiors. They said, ‘Officers are under stress & act out sometimes.’ No accountability.”
KTSM 9 News reached out to a Customs and Border Protection spokesman for comment immediately after the congresswoman made her remarks to reporters. CBP has not responded to KTSM’s request for comment.
The delegation also visited the Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas, where some 250 infants, children, and teenagers were reportedly detained for up to 27 days with what lawyers described as inadequate food, water and sanitation. Most of the children were removed from the facility, but about 100 were returned the following day.
Border Patrol officials, who denied allegations of squalid conditions at the facility, gave media a limited tour of the facility on June 26. Border Patrol agents showed media they were stocked with supplies and food like oatmeal and instant noodles. The children were clean and were playing and laughing, while some of the older boys played soccer.
After Monday’s tour in Clint, lawmakers held a news conference, which drew several protesters and supporters.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan, who represents an area north of Boston, said she wanted to see for herself and to convey to people who aren’t able to come what was happening at the border.
Trahan said she saw young girls under 5 years old quarantined in a small room because they have the flu. She said the girls are given cheeseburgers and juice, but could not eat because of the flu.
“There were times when I walked through these facilities when I was enraged and there were times when I walked through this facility and I was brought to my knees in tears,” said Trahan, the mother of two girls ages 5 and 9. “We’re not giving basic human rights to children right now who are in our custody. And you know, let me be super clear, these facilities are not built to care for children. The people who are trained here are not trained to give care to children. So we need to come with prescriptions and responsible solutions to give high-quality care for kids who are in our custody. This is about our children. This is about human rights. And we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Democratic U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who represents a district that covers most of Boston, said she asked her constituents what message they wanted to deliver to the children and families being detained.
“They asked me to deliver a message that you are welcome here, and that we love you, and that we will never stop fighting for your dignity, for your humanity and for the preservation of your family. Today I was able to deliver that message,” said Pressley, who added that her visit was not only about the children. “The mothers, the abuelas, the tías, the madres that I sat with who wept openly in our arms, not even knowing our names because of the trauma they are experiencing, and because they don’t know where their children are.”
Ocasio-Cortez also spoke during the conference.
“What we saw today was unconscionable,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “No child should ever be separated from their parent. No child should ever be taken from their family. No woman should ever be locked up in a pen when they have done no harm to another human being. They should be given water. They should be given basic access to human rights.”
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke held a rally outside the Border Patrol facility Sunday in Clint. He also met with immigrants in Juarez seeking U.S. asylum but “turned away.”
Among the other lawmakers in the congressional delegation Monday were:
U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus
U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-California), Chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus
U.S. Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-California)
U.S. Rep. Norma Torres (D-California)
U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas)
U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Massachusetts)
U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Texas)
U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pennsylvania)
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan)
U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton (D-Arizona)