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Reporters Allowed to View Holding Cages at CBP’s McAllen Facility

The Border Patrol on Sunday allowed reporters to enter a former 55,000-square-foot warehouse used to hold undocumented migrants, with CBS News Correspondent David Begnaud describing the facility as “very sterile” with chain-link fences and ceiling netting used to contain subjects. He added that one cage had 20 children inside, and foil sheets were being used as blankets.

More than 1,100 people were housed in the facility, which is being used to hold families taken into custody in accordance with the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that separates families who cross the southwestern border without legal documentation, including asylum-seekers who don’t use official ports of entry.

CBS News reported that individuals are being detained in the McAllen, Texas, facility for typically between 12 and 36 hours.

Agents running the facility told reporters that everyone is given adequate food, access to showers, clean clothes and medical care. Under U.S. law, children are required to be turned over within three days to shelters funded by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Manuel Padilla, chief Border Patrol agent for the Rio Grande Valley sector, said agents have allowed families with children under the age of 5 to stay together in most cases.

The facility is divided into separate wings for unaccompanied children, adults on their own, and mothers and fathers with children. Cells connect to common areas with portable restrooms. Overhead lighting systems remain on during all hours.

The Border Patrol said around 200 people inside the facility were minors unaccompanied by a parent, according to CBS News. Another 500 were “family units” of parents and children.

Customs and Border Protection on Friday released a copy of a document given to families that offers instructions on how to reunite after separation.

Many adults who entered the U.S. without legal permission could be charged with unlawful entry and placed in jail, away from their children.

Reporters were not allowed by agents to interview any of the detainees or take photos. Border Patrol and immigration staff are not allowed to touch or interact with children held in the facility.

The “zero tolerance” policy, which Attorney General Jeff Sessions has argued is necessary as a deterrence tool, has sparked intense debate among U.S. officials.

“Those kids inside who have been separated from their parents are already being traumatized,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who was denied entry earlier this month to a Texas children’s detainment facility, CBS News reported. “It doesn’t matter whether the floor is swept and the bedsheets tucked in tight.”

The Associated Press reported that several Republican representatives in U.S. Congress expressed opposition to the policy amid an expanding divide between GOP officials over the policy. A spokeswoman for the first Lady said Melania Trump “hates to see” families being separated and hopes “both sides of the aisle” come together to find a solution.

Brad Allen
Brad M. Allen is a young journalist from Janesville, Wisconsin. He is currently studying Political Journalism and Economics at George Mason University, and he has recently completed his eighth semester of college at UW-Whitewater, where he studies Journalism. He is slated to graduate from UW-Whitewater in December 2018. Brad has worked with two newspaper publications in the southern Wisconsin area, those being The Royal Purple student-run newspaper at UW-Whitewater and the Janesville Gazette daily newspaper. Thus far in his time at the Royal Purple, Brad has been a prominent member of the editorial team in several roles ranging from the Business section editor to Managing Editor. A fair portion of his reporting experience there has involved investigating federal policy and national issues and interviewing officials and economists in southern Wisconsin to boil those issues down to a local level. At the Janesville Gazette, Brad designs newspaper pages containing stories on various state, national and international issues. His job there involves reading and dissecting content written by organizations such as the Associated Press and Tribune News Services to choose which stories will be most relevant to readers in Janesville.

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