US Politics

Democrats slam 'horrifying' conditions at US-Mexico border detention facilities

0:00

A 12-year-old girl has shared her testimony of the grim conditions she faced while being held at a border detention facility in the United States.

Crying children sleeping on the floor - given little food or blankets for warmth.

The harrowing testimony is what a 12-year-old girl recalls from her time at a United States border detention facility in Texas.

Her face is hidden to protect her identity and not undermine any potential immigration case. 

But the girl reveals she and her 6-year-old sister were held at the Clint Border Patrol station for almost two weeks, in a video obtained by the Associated Press.

“They treated us badly, where we were,” the girl said,

“They were mean to us. It was ugly in there.”

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York,  at the Border Patrol station in Clint about what she saw at area border facilities Monday, July 1.
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, at the Border Patrol station in Clint about what she saw at area border facilities Monday, July 1.
The El Paso Times

In the video, the girl recounts details of being held at the facility, to Alison Griffith, an attorney at The Advocates for Human Rights.

“They gave us little food, children were crying,” she said.

“Some children didn’t bathe, they didn’t bathe them

“They slept on just the floor, they would only give us one blanket."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, gets in an SUV after touring the inside of the Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas, Monday, July 1, 2019.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, gets in an SUV after touring the inside of the Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas, Monday, July 1, 2019.
AP

The witness account comes as US Democratic lawmakers visited the same detention facility in Clint, Texas on Monday 2 June.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez labelled the conditions there “horrifying” following a tour of the compound.

"What we saw today was unconscionable," she said.

The progressive Democratic has long been a critic of Customs and Border Protection's response to migrants at the United States-Mexico border. 

“We remain very concerned about the conditions in which people are being kept,” she said.

Their visit comes following reports by government inspectors of overcrowded and unhygienic conditions in detention facilities.

"There is abuse in these facilities,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez said.

"They should be given water. They should be given basic access to human rights."

The Trump administration’s tough approach to undocumented migrants has drawn attention to the Border Patrol's detention policies.

This has included its agents' treatment of children, the conditions which minors are being housed under and the alleged separation of families.

In a series of twitter posts, Ms Ocasio-Cortez recounted in detail the conditions at the Clint detention facility.

“We’re talking systemic cruelty [and] a dehumanising culture that treats them like animals,” she said.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez said one of the people being detained described their treatment as “psychological warfare.”

Fellow Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib also called for urgent reform of the detention system, saying it’s not only children that are suffering. 

Congresswoman Madeline Dean was another to raise her concerns calling the situation a “human rights crisis.”

“The conditions are far worse than we ever could have imagined,” she said,

“No running water. Weeks without showers. All of them separated from their families.”

Representative Joe Kennedy said congressional oversight was essential to fixing the “broken” system.

US President Donald Trump has targeted illegal immigration as a focus of his administration, but officials say a renewed influx of mostly Central Americans arriving at the border has strained resources.

US Border Patrol figures show it has made 593,507 southwest border apprehensions between October 2018 and May 2019.

In comparison, the previous fiscal year there were 396,579, according to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Protesters gather at the front of the Clint Border Patrol station Monday, July 1.
Protesters gather at the front of the Clint Border Patrol station Monday, July 1.
The El Paso Times

NBC News recently revealed the government’s internal watchdog has found conditions at an El Paso, Texas border station had led to border patrol agents arming themselves against possible riots.

The report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General said that those being detained were provided “limited access to showers and clean clothing, [and] detainees were wearing soiled clothing for days or weeks.”

Attorneys have also collected statements from children being detained during visits to Border Patrol facilities. The descriptions included this account from a 12-year old boy.

“I’m hungry here at Clint all the time," his statement read.

"I’m so hungry that I have woken up in the middle of the night with hunger."

Lawyers who visited the facility last month said there were more than 250 children being detained there, according to the Associated Press. The 12-year-old girl speaking to her Minnesota lawyer still vividly recalls their distress.

"They would cry for their mother or their father," she said.

“They cried for their aunt, they missed them.”

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch