Migrants at a southwest Texas detention facility don’t have access to drinking water and face other harrowing conditions, the chairman of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus said in an interview Thursday after leading a lawmaker visit to the center.
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said some migrant women at the detention facility do not have access to water, were subsisting on ramen noodles and granola bars, and in some cases, hadn’t bathed in more than two weeks.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol facilities are under-resourced and overcrowded, Castro said, arguing that the problems were exacerbated by the prolonged detention of asylum seekers in the U.S. under President Donald Trump.
“Rather than moving [asylum seekers] out of facilities, the Trump administration is paying these contractors [who run the detention centers], some of whom are making billions of dollars, to keep these people there longer and longer,” Castro told the PBS NewsHour’s managing editor and anchor Judy Woodruff. “They need to be moved out of these facilities as quickly as possible, they’re being held way too long, unnecessarily.”
Castro has called for more funding to manage the overflow of migrants in U.S. custody. But he said Thursday that additional money alone isn’t enough to fix the problem. “It’s not just a matter of pumping more cash into a broken system,” Castro said, “it’s also about changing these standards.”
The comments come after Castro, whose twin brother Julian Castro is a 2020 Democratic candidate, led a tour Monday of several detention centers in Texas for over a dozen Democratic House members. He also secretly recorded the conditions, documenting women wrapped in sleeping bags sitting on a concrete floor.
More highlights from the interview:
- On consequences for Border Patrol agents who wrote offensive comments about lawmakers in a secret Facebook group: “They should be fired. Everybody who made those vulgar and vile comments, who threatened the members of Congress, who made light of migrants who were dying crossing the river, [they] are desensitized to the point of being dangerous to the people in their custody and to their coworkers,” Castro said. Castro said he expects both Customs and Border Patrol and Congress to investigate the incident.
- On the hostile reaction from protesters during his Texas visit: Castro blamed Trump’s rhetoric and policies on immigration for the hecklers at a Democratic press conference following the tour of the detention facilities. Many of the protesters had a “complete disrespect for the human beings who are inside that facility,” Castro argued, adding that Trump “has given people a license to be as mean as they want to be.”
- On why Castro snuck a cell phone into the facility to record the conditions: Castro pushed back on Border Patrol agents who instructed lawmakers to leave all of their smartphones and other devices outside the facility, saying there is no law that prevents lawmakers from documenting the conditions. He also called on the agency to change a policy banning all press access to migrant detention facilities.. “If you don’t let the press in, and you’re also saying you’re not going to let the legislative branch in, then you’re basically asking the country to allow you to patrol yourself, and that’s just unacceptable,” Castro said.