EL PASO — U.S. Customs and Border Protection addressed allegations that officers forced migrants to drink from a toilet inside a detention facility in El Paso.
On Monday, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus toured a pair of migrant detention facilities in the El Paso area.
In a statement to KTSM 9 News, a CBP spokesman said the visit offered an “open, frank and transparent discussion” regarding CBP facilities and challenges posed by the ongoing humanitarian and border security crisis.
After a tour of the first facility, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said CBP officers had been abusing detainees. From the front passenger seat of a large SUV, the New York Democrat told reporters, “This is (CBP) on their best behavior. They put (detainees) in a room with no running water, and these women were being told by CBP officers to drink out of the toilet. They were drinking water out of the toilet, and that was them knowing a congressional visit was coming.”
The CBP spokesman said lawmakers asked questions and heard directly from El Paso Sector leadership about how the U.S. Border Patrol is managing a more than 650 percent increase in border apprehensions.
“Representatives visited two locations where migrants in custody receive three meals a day and have access to clean, drinking water,” the CBP spokesman said. “Local leadership highlighted investments in additional restroom-and-shower facilities, hygiene products, increased medical support, and expanded transportation capabilities.”
Despite the investments, El Paso officials emphasized that the Border Patrol facilities are not designed for long-term detention. The CBP spokesman said those challenges are exacerbated when ICE, Health and Human Services and other federal agencies are unable to move those in custody as quickly as they are processed.
U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan echoed those challenges during a news conference outside the Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas. That is where lawyers described seeing dirty conditions and inadequate food and water.
“Let me be super clear, these facilities are not built to care for children,” Trahan, a Democrat from the Boston area, said. “The people who are trained here are not trained to give care to children. So, we need to come with prescriptions and responsible solutions to give high-quality care to kids who are in our custody. This is about our children. This is about human rights, and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
CBP officials reiterate that CBP takes allegations of mistreatment in their facilities seriously.
“(CBP) reports all allegations to both the DHS Office of the Inspector General and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility,” the CBP spokesman said. “Any employee found to have violated our standards of conduct will be held accountable.”