EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Migrants clogged toilets with socks and Mylar blankets in hopes of being released from a crowded Border Patrol cell, according to a government report.
Auditors with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General not only found “dangerous overcrowding” at four Border Patrol facilities, but they highlighted safety concerns and health risks for agents.
According to the report released Tuesday, a senior manager called the situation a “ticking time bomb.”
At one facility, detainees who had been removed from their cell for cleaning refused to return, the report stated.
The Office of Inspector General traveled to the Rio Grande Valley the week of June 10. Auditors visited the Border Patrol station and the Centralized Processing Center in McAllen, Texas; the Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Texas; and the Border Patrol Station in Fort Brown, Texas.
Photos from the report show women and children sleeping on the floor with only Mylar blankets for cover, as well as several people are wearing surgical masks. Auditors also said 88 men were being held in a cell with a capacity of 41.
Auditors said they had to cut short one visit because their “presence was agitating an already difficult situation.” The auditors said detainees began shouting and banging on cell windows.
Detainees also pressed notes on the windows showing the amount of time they had been in custody, while others pointed to their beards as evidence of their time in custody, auditors said.
The report released on Tuesday warns that DHS officials need to address overcrowding and the prolonged detention of both children and adults.
In its response to the Office of the Inspector General, DHS officials said, “The situation on the Southern Border represents an acute and worsening crisis. Our immigration system is not equipped to accommodate a migration pattern like the one we are experiencing now.”
DHS officials said an average of 4,600 people crossed the southern border illegally or arrived at ports of entry without proper documents in May, compared with 700 in May of 2017.
DHS officials also said that Customs and Border Protection allocated $49 million for medical services for those in custody. CBP officials have built two tents in the Rio Grande Valley that can each hold up to 500 people, with one specifically for adults expected to open in late July.