Hundreds of people, including infants as young as 5 months old, have been detained in “an emerging tent city” at the El Paso Border Patrol Station in conditions that one visiting legislator has described as filthy and totally unfit for families, the Daily Beast reports. “Five U.S. Army tents meant for battlefield hospitals have been repurposed to hold men, women, and children, including infants. Two of the tents were erected over the past week, expanding the facility’s capacity by several hundred people.”
Outside, the prison camp is surrounded by barbed wire, with little room to move around. Inside, vulnerable families are languishing for days on end in awful conditions, said Rep. Nanette Barragán of California, who toured the facility last month. She said officials told her their “goal” was to assure people got showers every three days—how generous—but what she saw and heard was “unhealthy.”
“One woman had a baby, a five-month-old baby and said she’d been there for five days,” she said. “The baby had filthy clothes. The situation is unhealthy. People are in a confined space, they’re not getting showers, their clothes are dirty, babies are not getting Pampers like they should be. These ladies were crying and telling us their stories and it was just heartbreaking.”
These families aren’t sleeping on cots but rather “on a temporary floor that covered the asphalt parking lot beneath, with babies sometimes sleeping on their parents’ legs to avoid the hard floor.” It was just days ago that border officials were forcing detained people to sleep on dirt and rocks in a now-closed cage under a bridge, also in El Paso. Officials were more than happy to allow media to photograph that horror show, as well as to perp-walk children to add some images to the administration’s propaganda campaign.
But now “reporters are forbidden from the facility, leaving The Daily Beast to observe the operation through a telephoto lens from nearly a quarter-mile away.” None of this has to be happening, though. “One of my concerns is they’re slowing down the process almost intentionally and they’re helping create the appearance of this backlog,” Barragán said. “I don’t know this for sure, and I have nothing to point to other than our history of not getting truthful information from this administration and these agencies.”
That Barragán even got to tour the prison camp is half the battle. When three House Democrats tried to tour the prison camp for migrant kids in Florida earlier this month, they were blocked by the administration in violation of federal law. “As members of Congress it is essential that we see for ourselves what conditions are, and conduct the constitutionally mandated oversight that we are obligated to provide,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida. “The Department of Health and Human Services is violating federal law denying us entry today.”