Members of Congress who spoke with immigrant detainee families on Monday are sharing horror stories of what they witnessed, in which detainees were reportedly deprived of basic needs while in U.S. custody.

Perhaps the most disturbing account came from Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-California). In a video posted to Twitter, Rep. Chu talked about conditions she witnessed at the detention facility near El Paso, Texas. According to Chu, detainees were denied access to running water, medicine, and even their children. Another detainee was apparently told to drink from a toilet.

“One woman said that the Border Patrol agent told her, if she wanted water, just to drink from the toilet,” Chu said in a video taken while she was on her way to another detention facility in Clint, Texas.

At the same El Paso border facility Rep. Chu visited, conditions were so poor for detainees that border agents reportedly feared that immigrants would riot, according to an NBC News report. An Office of Inspector General report read that on a May 7 tour of the El Paso camp, there were only four showers available for nearly 800 immigrants, more than half of those being detained were kept outside due to lack of space, and detainees were being confined in cells more than five times their maximum capacity.

A cell meant for a maximum of 35 held 155 adult males with only one toilet and sink. The cell was so crowded the men could not lie down to sleep. Temperatures in the cells reached over 80 degrees, the report said.

“With limited access to showers and clean clothing, detainees were wearing soiled clothing for days or weeks,” the report said.

Congressman Joe Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) was also a part of the Congressional delegation that went to border facilities. He described “contentious and uncooperative” behavior from border agents, saying they were “very resistant to Congressional oversight.”

“Facilities are wholly inadequate. Cells maxed to capacity, concrete floors… it felt jail-like,” Kennedy wrote. “No way to keep a child or innocent human being.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), who has called the facilities “concentration camps,” tweeted a photo of a small packet of shampoo that one detainee said she was given to wash her whole body.

“Some women’s hair was falling out. Others had gone 15 days without taking a shower,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “What’s haunting is that the women I met with today told me in no uncertain terms that they would experience retribution for telling us what they shared. They all began sobbing – out of fear of being punished, out of sickness, out of desperation, lack of sleep, trauma, despair.”

The conditions that members of Congress viewed Monday seem to echo conditions captured by Reuters via aerial photography in May. Earlier on Monday, Reuters published those photos of a detention facility in McAllen, Texas, showing immigrants packed into a makeshift encampment, surrounded by trash, with just a few port-a-potties to accompany what looked to be hundreds of migrants.

(Featured image: Wikimedia Commons)


Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.

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