US VP Pence visits overcrowded migrant camp, deplores crisis

Clay Curtis
July 13, 2019

Vice President Mike Pence visited two migrant detention centers here Friday with Republican senators in an effort to defend the administration's handling of the migrant crisis following reports of inhumane conditions at the facilities. After being sworn in at her request, a practice the committee generally eschews for fellow lawmakers and seemed a taunt at dubious Republicans, she described migrant women telling her they had to sleep on the concrete floor and drink from the toilet because their cell's sink was broken.

Pence said. "That's different than some of the harsh rhetoric that we hear from Democrats on Capitol Hill". But the scene the vice-president witnessed is sure to spark new criticism of the conditions facing migrants in USA government facilities.

A motorcade then took the vice president to the McAllen Border Patrol Station for a roundtable discussion with agents and agency leaders. The men told reporters they'd been held there for almost 40 days, and that they were hungry.

The press was removed from the room after 90 seconds.

In the second holding facility, the vice president was faced with almost 400 men crammed behind caged fences with not enough room for them all to lie down.

Agents guarding the cages were wearing face masks.

But Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who made that accusation in a news conference after visiting a Texas CBP facility earlier this month, stood by her claim.

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The vice president's office said it specifically instructed the Border Patrol agents not to clean up or sanitize the facility beyond what is routine so the American people could see the overcrowding and scarce resources, like lack of beds, and see how serious the crisis is at the border. They said they hadn't showered in weeks, wanted toothbrushes, food. He also said the longest any man had been there was 32 days.

A House panel heard at times emotional testimony about conditions at facilities run by the Department of Homeland Security.

"The president drove hard to get a bipartisan humanitarian aid bill through the Congress - $4.6 billion", Pence told reporters after the tour.

Pence says he has pushed for more federal spending to deal with the situation. Lindsey Graham said he doesn't want to see migrant families being released from Border Patrol custody.

Pence earlier visited a two-month-old migrant processing facility in nearby Donna, a series of large white tents holding 800 people with capacity for 1,000.

The hearing came as the number of families, children and other migrants entering the United States from Mexico has surged above 100,000 monthly since March, overwhelming federal agencies' ability to detain them in sanitary conditions or move them quickly to better housing. Five immigrant children have died since late past year after being detained by the government. "And the facts are that we have a crisis on our southern border that is being driven by human traffickers who are exploiting loopholes in American law to entice vulnerable families to make a long and unsafe journey north". Facilities to detain adults and children quickly filled up, forcing many migrants to languish in unsuitable Border Patrol facilities much longer than the 72 hours normally required by law.

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