The Biden administration has now released its first official photos and video from inside two migrant detention centers following efforts to stop the public from seeing the conditions in which people are being kept in U.S. custody along the southern border with Mexico.
The two videos, each a few minutes long, and dozens of still images were shot last week by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, showing the inside of a processing facility in El Paso, Texas, and a holding facility in Donna, Texas.
The Donna facility holds families and unaccompanied children while they await transfer to other agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services. Children there are shown lining up for food and drink, some in gray government-issued sweatpants, and passing time on gray mats with foil blankets in clear plastic pods set up to prevent widespread coronavirus transmission.
Some of the images show temporary processing setups, where masked border patrol agents type at computers set up on folding tables behind plastic dividers. Others document laundry facilities, portable bathrooms and rows of supplies including pallets of bottled water, NutriGrain bars, Kool Aid pouches and diapers.
One video clip shot by CBP shows a group of children laughing and playing in a yard.
The images’ release comes less than one day after a Texas Democrat, Rep. Henry Cuellar, sent photos of the Donna facility to multiple news outlets that he had obtained from an unidentified source.
Cuellar explained that he released the images to show Americans the challenges facing immigration authorities along the border, and because the Biden administration has not allowed media to tour the Donna facility. The administration has refused to say there is a crisis along the border.
“Are we having a humanitarian crisis trying to take care of these kids? The answer is yes,” Cuellar told ABC News on Monday. “This administration has all the good intentions. They want to treat the kids in a humane way ... but their good intentions are being overwhelmed by numbers.”
He said the administration should work with Mexican authorities and those in Central America to do more to encourage people to apply for asylum in their home countries.
On Sunday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told CNN that his agency was “working around the clock to move these children out of the Border Patrol facilities into the care and custody of the Department of Health and Human Services that shelters them.”
A small team of White House officials is expected to travel to Mexico and Guatemala later this week in order to “address root causes of migration” and “develop an effective and humane plan of action” to manage it, while Democrats in the House debate the best course of action.
In the month of February, U.S. border agents detained nearly 100,000 migrants at the border with Mexico ― the highest amount since a surge in migrant arrivals in 2019.
See more photos of the facilities below.