Almost 400 migrant men were so severely packed into detention cages at a Texas border facility Friday that they could not lie down on the concrete floor at the same time to sleep, according to a report from a pool of reporters traveling with Vice President Mike Pence. There were no cots, mats or pillows for them to sleep on, and several men said that they had been in the cages, largely unwashed, for 40 days.
“The stench was horrendous,” reported Washington Post journalist Josh Dawsey.
The Customs and Border Protection agent in charge at the McAllen facility said there “wasn’t room for cots and the facility didn’t have a shower” — until Thursday when one was provided in an outdoor trailer, Dawsey tweeted. Some men said they hadn’t showered for as long as 20 days and were shouting at reporters that they wanted to brush their teeth. It was “sweltering,” even though a CBP official insisted the facility was “air conditioned,“ Dawsey tweeted. The only water was outside the fences; they needed to ask permission from the guards to drink, Dawsey reported later in his story in the Post.
Pence told reporters that he wasn’t surprised by what he saw, Dawsey reported.
“Look, this is tough stuff,” Pence at a news conference later, The Associated Press reported. “I knew we’d see a system that is overcrowded. It’s overwhelmed and that’s why Congress has to act.” Pence’s office had said the tour was an effort to show that the Trump administration is providing adequate care for migrants, but it didn’t appear to work out that way. Reporters were whisked out of the facility 90 seconds after arriving, according to AP.
President Donald Trump said earlier in the day that he sent Pence to the border to dispel reports of dire conditions at the centers.
“They’re crowded because we have a lot of people, but they’re in good shape,” Trump said. He complained about “phony” reporting on poor conditions by The New York Times.
Pence’s office issued a statement saying the CBP had been instructed not to clean up the facility so Americans could “see how serious the crisis at our border is.”
What Americans did was react with outrage to Dawsey’s tweets.