Migrant women in an overcrowded detention cell the Fort Brown Border Patrol station, Brownsville, Texas, June 12, 2019 (Homeland Security)
Donald Trump denies the reality of inhumane conditions for migrants held in detention centers in the southern US, defying reports from legislators, lawyers, and his own Department of Homeland Security.
Last month lawyers — given access only because of a court order — were so troubled by what they saw in a Clint, Texas facility that they went to the media. They spoke of hundreds of children in dirty diapers and mucus-stained clothing in the overcrowded center.
Flu and lice outbreaks were going untreated, and children were filthy, sleeping on cold floors, and taking care of each other because of the lack of attention from guards. They had no access to toothbrushes, toothpaste, or soap.
Last week more than a dozen Democratic legislators saw the Clint and El Paso centers. Women, many of them crying, said they had gone 15 days without a shower, had no soap, and were allowed to start bathing only after the congressional visit was announced. Some said they were forced to drink out of the toilet when the faucet in their cell broke. A diet of bologna sandwiches left many constipated and ill.
A leaked Homeland Security report confirmed the testimony of the lawyers and representatives. It described conditions in five centers in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley such as standing-room-only cells, women and children without showers and hot meals, and detainees desperately appealing for release.
See also Flu, Filth, and Lice: Inside a Texas “Concentration Camp” For Immigrant Children
TrumpWatch, Day 893: Legislators Tour “Broken” Migrant Detention FacilitiesTrumpWatch, Day 894: Inhumane Conditions in Migrant Detention Centers — Government Watchdog
But Trump said on Sunday that the reports about Clint are a “hoax”. He wrote on Twitter of a “Big Media Con Job”:
….United States Citizens first. Border Patrol, and others in Law Enforcement, have been doing a great job. We said there was a Crisis – the Fake News & the Dems said it was “manufactured.” Now all agree we were right, but they always knew that. They are crowded (which we…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 7, 2019
Trump tweeted last Wednesday, “Many of these illegals aliens are living far better now than where they came from, and in far safer conditions.”
His officials tried on Sunday to provide cover for their boss and themselves. Acting Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan was asked on Sunday about a detailed New York Times/El Paso Times report that Border Patrol leaders had covered up the conditions for months. Staff at the Clint facility described cases of chickenpox, scabies and shingles amid inadequate medical care.
McAleenan, who has insisted that facilities are “clean” and “well-managed”, dismissed the details as “unsubstantiated”: “What I can tell you right now is that there’s adequate food, water. For over a year, there’s been showers there.”
Kenneth Cuccinelli, the Acting Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, also maintained that the detention centers are safe. He tried to blame legislators who toured the centers:
If [migrants] keep coming, people in the House come down and complain about them keep coming while not helping fix the problem. It’s the height of hypocrisy.
McAleenan and Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, are scheduled to testify this week before the House Oversight and Reform Committee.