Vice President Mike Pence, accompanied by Republican senators including Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), visited two detention facilities near the U.S.-Mexico border where migrants were being held on Friday. Pence visited one center in Donna, Tex. where men were being held in addition to a McAllen facility where children were detained.
The account from pool reporter Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post, who accompanied Pence into the facility in Donna, is chilling:
After negotiating with the VP’s office, pool was taken into an outdoor portal at the McAllen Border Station around 5pm, where almost 400 men were in caged fences with no cots. The stench was horrendous.
The cages were so crowded that it would have been impossible for all the men to lie on the concrete. There were 384 single men in the portal who allegedly crossed the border illegally. There were no mats or pillows—some of the men were sleeping on concrete.
When the men saw the press arrive, they began shouting and wanted to tell us they’d been in there 40 days or longer. The men said they were hungry and wanted to brush their teeth. It was sweltering hot. Agents were guarding the cages wearing face masks.
Dawsey also noted in his report in the Washington Post that the only water available to migrants was kept outside the fences where they were held and that they had to ask Border Patrol every time they wanted a drink.
In a video of the visit, it appeared that Pence did not speak with any of the migrants, only talking with a Border Patrol officer and turning away from the men who were shouting, “No shower! No shower!”
BREAKING: New video shows shows severe overcrowding of men in cages at Texas detainment facility during VP Pence's visit Friday. pic.twitter.com/OSlwz4yZBZ
— NBC News (@NBCNews) July 13, 2019
Pence also visited a relatively new facility that had been in operation for two months where children were being held. The conditions there seemed to be relatively better than the men in cages, but the facilities were still stark, with children sitting on metal benches and cots watching a cartoon. Pence spoke with the children, asking them where they were from and whether they were receiving “good care.”
"Are they taking good care of you here?"
VP Pence talked to migrants while visiting detention facility in Donna, Texas. pic.twitter.com/29jUnoZnZe
— The Hill (@thehill) July 13, 2019
At a news conference after visiting the facility, Pence said: “That’s the overcrowding President Trump has been talking about. That’s the overwhelming of the system that some in Congress have said was a manufactured crisis. But now I think the American people can see this crisis is real.”
“I was not surprised by what I saw,” Pence added. “I knew we’d see a system that was overwhelmed.”
But Trump and Pence are the ones ensuring the system is overwhelmed by detaining asylum-seekers en masse, as Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) said on Twitter: “[Democrats] are working to expose and stop human rights violations at the border, but everyone needs to know that Pence and Trump are making these problems much worse on purpose. They separate families and detain asylum seekers in huge numbers for political reasons. They could stop it.”
And during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Friday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) testified about her visit to a detention center and excoriated the administration for creating the crisis: “This is a manufactured crisis because the cruelty is manufactured. This is a manufactured crisis because there is no need for us to do this. There’s no need for us to overcrowd and to detain and under-resource,” she said, adding, “It is a policy of dehumanization implemented by this executive administration laid at the feet of Stephen Miller that creates a tinderbox of violence and dehumanization where hurt people hurt people.”
“I believed them. I believe these women,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez testifies on conditions she witnessed during her visit to a border detention facility. “This is a manufactured crisis because there is no need for us to do this.” https://t.co/W4Xhplfbhx pic.twitter.com/IEBRCmhU7r
— ABC News (@ABC) July 12, 2019
In an emotional speech at the same hearing, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) said: “You can talk all you want about whether the poor Border [Patrol] is overwhelmed that makes no excuse for how we are treating children…Is there no limit to what you will justify in this administration?”
Rep. Connolly during House Oversight and Reform Cmte. hearing: "You can talk all you want about whether the poor Border [Patrol] is overwhelmed that makes no excuse for how we are treating children…Is there no limit to what you will justify in this administration?" pic.twitter.com/ngwyr464TV
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) July 13, 2019
Connelly and Ocasio-Cortez are right. Trump and Pence have made a significant departure from Obama Administration policy regarding the detention of migrants, keeping migrants detained beyond legal limits and systematically separating families. It’s a crisis of their own making and their proposed solution is to build more facilities instead of changing the policies that are keeping people detained in inhumane conditions.