Friday, 19 July, 2019

'Shaken To My Core': Testimony Describes Conditions For Detained Migrants

CBP Border Patrol agents from the Mc Allen station horse patrol unit on patrol on horseback in South Texas Border Patrol Agents Rescue Migrant Lost in West Texas 14 File
Steven Clarke | 13 July, 2019, 16:41

US Vice President Mike Pence visited an overcrowded migrant camp in Texas on Friday, coming face to face with detainees held in horrific conditions and deploring an immigration crisis that he said was "overwhelming our system". There were no mats or pillows-some of the men were sleeping on concrete.

Pence said. "That's different than some of the harsh rhetoric that we hear from Democrats on Capitol Hill". It is unclear whether that decline will be part of a trend, and with construction of new facilities, it appears the US government is preparing for the influx to continue.

The first center he visited, while not homey or comfortable, was only two months old, cleaner and allowed Pence to paint a rosier picture of the treatment of migrants held in federal custody. When detainees saw reporters arrive, many began shouting, saying they had been there for 40 days or more and they were hungry and wanted to brush their teeth.

"What's witnessed here today, and the overcrowding of this border station, and the overall crisis at our border, is that Congress must do more", Pence said.

The press was removed from the room after 90 seconds.

"The stench was horrendous", White House pool reporter Josh Dawsey wrote of the brief visit to an outdoor portal at the McAllen Border Station. He said they were given deodorant after showering, but conceded numerous men had not showered for 10 or 20 days.

On Friday, Trump said he sent Pence on the trip to counter what he said were "phony" stories about the state of the facilities from Democrats and the news media while defending the agents working the detention centers.

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That came hours after four House Democratic freshmen who recently toured detention stations for migrants along the Texas border told a House committee of jam-packed, fetid holding areas "in front of the American flag" and accused President Trump of intentional cruelty to discourage future arrivals.

Michael Banks, the patrol agent in charge of the McAllen facility, said the men there are allowed to brush their teeth once a day and are given deodorant after showering.

"The president drove hard to get a bipartisan humanitarian aid bill through the Congress - $4.6 billion", Pence told reporters after the tour.

A House panel heard at times emotional testimony about conditions at facilities run by the Department of Homeland Security.

Pence says he has pushed for more federal spending to deal with the situation.

The Trump administration is opening a new 2,500-bed holding facility for adult migrants here, constructing a large soft-sided structure close to the U.S. -Mexico border on the former site of a controversial shelter for migrant children, officials said Friday. Lindsey Graham said he doesn't want to see migrant families being released from Border Patrol custody.

"They're crowded because we have a lot of people, but they're in good shape", Trump said. Five immigrant children have died since late previous year after being detained by the government. Squalid conditions at border facilities have drawn widespread concern as the migrant flow across the border has surged to more 100,000 per month this year, at times overwhelming the USA immigration system.

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