A surprise visit to a number of Border Patrol facilities by the Department of Homeland Security inspector general uncovered unhygienic conditions and “dangerous overcrowding” that forced some migrants to stand on toilets in order to try to breathe, an explosive report from the government watchdog states. In one El Paso, Texas, facility, investigators found “standing room only conditions,” where as many as 900 people were crammed into a facility meant to hold 125 people.
Conditions were unbearable for many. At the El Paso Del Norte Processing Center (PDT), investigators said they “observed detainees standing on toilets in the cells to make room and gain breathing space,” the report said, “thus limiting access to the toilets.” One picture in the report showed adult women nearly stacked on top of one other in one cell. This overcrowding was also having a direct impact on the health and well-being of detainees, the report continued.
Customs and Border Protection “was struggling to maintain hygienic conditions in the holding cells. With limited access to showers and clean clothing, detainees were wearing soiled clothing for days or weeks,” the report said. Investigators said that officers claimed “detainees who were not ill were raising medical complaints to obtain temporary release from the cells.” Or maybe they actually were getting physically ill from being crammed into cages like animals?
“Border Patrol management at PDT and other sites also raised concerns about employee morale and that conditions were elevating anxiety and affecting Department of Homeland Security employees’ personal lives,” the report said. “They noted that some employees eligible for retirement had accelerated their retirement dates, while others were considering alternative employment opportunities.”
Officials told investigators they were attempting to alleviate these conditions by building “additional tents” to hold people—which the office seemed open to—but this only adds to the problem, because federal immigration officials already have a record number of immigrants in detention, more than 52,000 (in defiance of limits set by Congress). Innocent children keep dying after being taken into federal immigration custody. The solution has to be more humane treatment, not more detention. “We will continue our spot inspections of the southern border facilities and may revisit El Paso sector sites to monitor overcrowding,” the report said.
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