U.S. Customs and Border Protection released dozens of photos from inside temporary holding facilities the day after photos obtained by a Texas congressman were published.
“More has to be done to address this growing humanitarian crisis,” tweeted Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas). “These migrant children need our help right now. Not later. ”
Cuellar, who did not personally take the photos, told Axios that each of the eight pods holding migrants in the soft-sided temporary holding facility in Donna, Texas, is supposed to have maximum occupancy of 260 but on Sunday one of the pods held more than 400 unaccompanied male minors. CBP has not let media tour the facilities.
Asked on CNN Monday if President Biden believed conditions in the overflow facility shown in Cuellar’s photos were acceptable, White House press secretary Jen Psaki replied, “No, he doesn’t, and that’s why he wants to move children as quickly as possible out of the Border Patrol facilities. They are not meant for children and that’s why he wants to open more shelters. He wants to increase and expedite processing at the border and this is an issue he’s focused on every single day.”
CBP said in a statement today that the agency “continues to transfer unaccompanied minors to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as quickly and efficiently as possible after they are apprehended on the Southwest Border.”
“In order to protect the health and safety of our workforce and those in our care we continue to discourage external visitors in our facilities; however, CBP is working to balance the need for public transparency and accountability,” the statement said. “Still imagery and video are now available of the Donna Processing Center in Donna, Texas and the Central Processing Center in El Paso, Texas.”
The McAllen, Texas, Border Patrol Station reported Monday that over the weekend agents encountered “three large groups of families and unaccompanied alien children; each group was more than 100 people.” The migrants were from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Belize.
Rio Grande Valley agents “have encountered 25 groups of more than 100 people illegally entering the country this calendar year,” with this month’s apprehensions already larger than February’s total number.
“I also have been in facilities and met with families and children here in my district. The messaging that is being used by a lot of the human smuggling organizations this go-round is hope,” Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) told CNN. “In 2019, when we saw a significant increase also in families and unaccompanied minors arriving at our front door, the message being used by criminal organizations and human smugglers was fear. What I was hearing from families back then was, we’re being told that Donald Trump is going to build a wall and if we don’t come now we’ll never have our opportunity.”
“So, to me, the messaging is almost inconsequential because, regardless of who’s in the White House, those organizations are running a business, basically preying on vulnerable populations, feeding them either truths, half-truths, lies, it doesn’t matter, and it’s never going to stop until we address the root causes,” she said.