US Politics

#FakeChristian: Mike Pence under fire after visit to migrant centre

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The hashtag #FakeChristian was trending on Twitter after Mike Pence visited a migrant centre on Friday.

Critics of US Vice President Mike Pence have accused him of being a "fake Christian" after an "uncomfortable" visit to a packed Texas immigrant detention centre.

Mr Pence, a devout Christian, toured two detention facilities on the Texas border on Friday as part of an effort to show the Trump administration is providing adequate care for migrants.

Footage of Mr Pence at the detention centre.
Footage of Mr Pence at the detention centre.
SBS News

But footage showed Mr Pence looking "uncomfortable" throughout the visit and not interacting with many of the detainees.

Before long, the hashtag #FakeChristian was trending on Twitter.

Users took to twitter to attack the vice president over his demeanor during the tour and his government's migration policies. 

Mr Pence's tour included a brief visit to an area at a Border Patrol station where hundreds of men were crowded into sweltering cages without cots.

Some of the men said they were hungry and had been held there for 40 days or longer.

"Look, this is tough stuff," Mr Pence acknowledged at a later news conference.

The McAllen Border Station on Friday.
The McAllen Border Station on Friday.
SBS News

"I knew we'd see a system that is overcrowded," he added. "It's overwhelmed and that's why Congress has to act."

The caged migrants were being held in an area at the McAllen Border Patrol station. When detainees saw reporters arrive, many began shouting, saying they were hungry and wanted to brush their teeth.

The press pool covering the vice president was removed within 90 seconds.

The conditions were described by a pool reporter from The Washington Post, who said the fenced cages were so crowded that it was impossible for all the men to lie on the concrete.

The scene resembled what an inspector general found in a scathing report delivered last week based on trips to Border Patrol facilities near the Rio Grande, including the station Mr Pence visited. The report quoted a senior government manager as calling the situation a "ticking time bomb."

Michael Banks, the agent in charge of McAllen station, said the men held there were allowed to brush their teeth once a day. He said they were given deodorant after showering, but conceded many of the men had not showered for 10 or 20 days. He also said the longest any man had been there was 32 days.

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President Donald Trump said he had dispatched Mr Pence to the border to dispel reports of dire conditions at the migrant detention centres.

"They're crowded because we have a lot of people, but they're in good shape," Mr Trump said. He complained about "phony" reporting on conditions by The New York Times.

Earlier in his tour, Mr Pence visited another detention facility with a series of large white tents where most of the detainees were lying on kindergarten-like mats with thin, tinfoil-like blankets.

Many of the families there were to be released within 72 hours. Mr Pence told reporters every family he spoke to there said they were being well cared for.

Additional reporting: AAP

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