Exclusive photos from inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporary overflow facility in Donna, Texas, reveal the crowded, makeshift conditions at the border as the government’s longer-term child shelters and family detention centers fill up.
Why it matters: Each of eight “pods” in the so-called soft-sided facility has a 260-person occupancy, said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who provided the photos to Axios to raise awareness about the situation. But as of Sunday, he said, one pod held more than 400 unaccompanied male minors.
- Because the Biden administration has restricted media coverage at housing facilities, images like these offer a rare window into conditions.
- Cuellar, who recently visited a shelter for children, did not tour the Donna facility or take the photos himself. He said the photos were taken over the weekend.
What they’re saying: Cuellar described the setting as “terrible conditions for the children” and said they need to be moved more rapidly into the care of the Department of Health and Human Services.
- Border Patrol agents are “doing the best they can under the circumstances” but are “not equipped to care for kids” and “need help from the administration,” he said.
- “We have to stop kids and families from making the dangerous trek across Mexico to come to the United States. We have to work with Mexico and Central American countries to have them apply for asylum in their countries.”
“I have said repeatedly from the very outset a Border Patrol station is no place for a child,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told CNN on Sunday. “That is why we are 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.”
- On MSNBC, he compared the administration’s actions to those of the Trump administration,”We are not expelling children, girls, 5, 7, 9 years old back into the desert of Mexico, back into the hands of traffickers.”
The bottom line: Facilities are at capacity under coronavirus protocols, and the Rio Grande Valley sector — which includes Donna — has far exceeded even its non-pandemic limits.
- As of Saturday, there were 10,000 migrants in CBP custody overall. Nearly half were unaccompanied minors — thousands of whom had been waiting for more than 3 days in border patrol facilities, according to government data provided to Axios by another source.