13 July, 2019
“I was not surprised by what I saw”: US Vice President
By SJA Jafri + Agencies
MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON: US Vice President Mike Pence visited an over-crowded and foul-smelling border facility in south Texas yesterday packed with nearly 400 immigrant men held in sweltering cages without mats or pillows where some said they had been detained for more than 40 days.
The men, held in “sweltering hot” conditions at the McAllen Border Patrol station, told reporters they were hungry and wanted to brush their teeth, according to the White House press pool which visited the facility with the vice president. The smell in the area was described as “horrendous” and some of the border officers guarding the cages were seen wearing face masks.
The temperature in McAllen, Texas, soared to 99 degree on Friday, with a heat index above 110 degrees.
Pence also visited a tent-like temporary detention facility in Donna, Texas, that holds unaccompanied children and immigrant families. The new and mostly clean facility stood in stark contrast to the McAllen station Pence later visited.
One man near the front of the fence told reporters repeatedly, “Cuarenta dias, cuarenta dias” or “40 days” in Spanish. He held his hands in front of him putting four fingers up in one hand and making a zero with the other to make sure his message got across.
“No shower, no shower,” someone else could be heard shouting.
Yet another could be heard saying, “No agua,” or “No water” in Spanish.
The cages were so crowded that it was not possible for all the men to lie down at the same time, the pool reporter said. “There were no mats of pillows — some of the men were sleeping on concrete,” he said.
In a statement after the visit, the vice president’s office said it had specifically instructed Customs and Border Protection to not clean up or sanitize the facility beyond what is routine. “So the American people could see how serious the crisis at our border is (overcrowding, lack of resources, beds),” it said.
At a press conference, Pence called for additional beds in Immigration and Customs Enforcement jails and said the situation was the reason he had called for more funding for the Department of Homeland Security.
“I was not surprised by what I saw,” Pence said at the news conference. “I knew we’d see a system that was overwhelmed.”
Border authorities said water was available outside the caged area at the station, adding that the men could leave and get water when the press wasn’t there. Reporters were pulled out of the area within 90 seconds, the press pool said.
Michael Banks, the agent in charge of the McAllen station, said the men were allowed to brush their teeth once a day and said the longest any man had been held there was 32 days.
Many of the men had not showered for 10 or 20 days, Banks said.
The men detained at the McAllen station were given three hot meals a day from local restaurants, along with juice and crackers, Banks said. But the men were not given cots because there was not enough room for them to sleep inside the fenced area.
The visit comes after several months of authorities apprehending record numbers of immigrants at the border, many of them asylum-seekers from Central America, and detaining them in facilities originally designed to hold single men from Mexico that could be quickly deported. Last month, DHS said it saw a 28% decrease in apprehensions compared with May across all demographics.
The drop in overall apprehension numbers in June, however, may not have been enough enough to alleviate conditions that have plagued areas like south Texas.
A Department of Homeland Security Officer of Inspector General Report documented adults and children at several Texas facilities without access to showers, many adults fed only bologna sandwiches, and detainees banging on cell windows — desperately pressing notes to the windows of their cells that detailed their time in custody.
The report followed findings from an investigator who found immigrants were being detained in “dangerous,” overcrowded standing room–only cells, with some standing on toilets to get breathing space.
Following weeks of findings and other reports of “horrifying” conditions inside border detention facilities, President Donald Trump defended the statement, saying immigrants were “living far better” than in their home countries.
“Our Border Patrol people are not hospital workers, doctors or nurses,” Trump said in a series of tweets blaming Democrats for the conditions. “Many of these illegals aliens are living far better now than where they came from, and in far safer conditions.”
Talking to Press Media of India (PMI) one of immigration experts told that Trump Administration has exposed all over the world while the face of so-called America has also uncovered after the visit of Mike Pence to an over-crowded and foul-smelling border facility in south Texas yesterday packed with nearly 400 immigrant men held in sweltering cages In a very worst condition. Another refugee’s specialist said there are thousands of innocent migrants including aged people, minors, pregnant women, mentally and physically ill even disable refugees in cages without any facility.