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New photos show ‘dangerous overcrowding’ with migrants packed into cells

WASHINGTON – New photos in a report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General show disturbing living conditions in Rio Grande Valley migrant facilities where people are packed into severely overcrowded cells.

In one image a man holds a sign that reads “Help. 40 Day Here,” pressing it to the window of a cell crammed with men forced to stand. Eighty-eight migrants were being held in the cell, which had a maximum capacity of 41, the report found.

Eighty-eight men held in a cell with a maximum capacity of 41 at Border Patrol’s Fort Brown Station on June 12, 2019. The memo says some pointed to their beards to show how long they had been held while one man holds up a sign. (OIG)

Others show women and small children lying side-by-side, some wearing masks to cover their mouths and many apparently sleeping on the ground without even an aluminum blanket.

Families shown sleeping on the ground in cramped conditions at Border Patrol’s Weslaco, Texas, Station on June 11, 2019. (OIG

The photo were taken in June when the DHS Office of the Inspector General toured five border patrol facilities and two ports of entry along the Rio Grande Valley in Southern Texas, which sees the highest volume of migrants along the border.

The investigation found that 3,400 of the migrants had been held longer than the 72-hour limit, and a senior manager at one facility called the situation a “ticking time bomb.”

Families shown packed into holding areas at the CPB Centralized Processing Center in McAllen, Texas, on June 11, 2019. (OIG)

Another fenced-off holding area at the CPB Centralized Processing Center in McAllen, Texas, on June 11, 2019. (OIG)

Acting Inspector General Jennifer Costello’s memo to Kevin McAleenan, the acting DHS secretary, revealed that children at three of the five facilities had no access to showers,  no laundry facilities and few spare clothes.

On Friday, Acting Secretary Mcaleenan called reports of children held at the Clint facility without access to basic needs such as blankets and toothbrushes “unsubstantiated.”

All of the facilities did have infant formula, diapers, baby wipes and juice and snacks for the children, but the memo states that no hot meals, required by current standards, had been supplied until the week of the visit.

The report also found multiple instances of detainees clogging toilets just to be released from their cells for maintenance. Some migrants tried to escape the facility during the cleanup.

Photo shows men forced to stand in a cell at CPB’s McAllen, Texas, station on June 10, 2019. (OIG)

Others refused to re-enter and the “Border Patrol brought in its special operations team to demonstrate it was prepared to use force if necessary.”

The report said OIG recognizes the “extraordinary challenges” the Customs and Border Protection faces, but urges DHS to take “immediate steps to alleviate dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults in the Rio Grande Valley.”

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