On Monday, July 1, a Congressional delegation toured two Custom and Border Protection (CBP) detention facilities in Texas, following reports that people were being detained in inhumane conditions in both locations. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was among the Congress members who visited the El Paso and Clint centers, and what she and her colleagues noted corresponds with many of the reports that have come from immigration attorneys and migrants themselves about the conditions inside the facilities.
In June, reports emerged that the children held inside the overcrowded Clint detention center were being denied access to hygienic products, medicine, and adequate food and water. People responded with widespread condemnation of the Trump administration's immigration policies, with Ocasio-Cortez leading the charge. During her tour of the centers alongside Rep. Joaquin Castro, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Rep. Joe Kennedy, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, the politician witnessed the poor conditions herself, and live-tweeted her experience.
In one post, Ocasio-Cortez shared that despite the CBP guards not allowing the Congress people to take photos, one woman slipped the representative a single shampoo packet and told her that it was all that guards gave her to shower with.
Although most of the Congress members weren't able to bring in cell phones, Rep. Castro did manage to smuggle one in and post photos and videos from inside the detention center. He captured video of women at the El Paso center huddled on the ground, weeping and wrapped in blankets.
"Many said they had not bathed for 15 days. Some had been separated from children, some had been held for more than 50 days," Castro wrote on Twitter. "Several complained they had not received their medications, including one for epilepsy."
The women can be heard telling Ocasio-Cortez in Spanish that they weren't given medication that they needed. The politician also reported on her own Twitter that the women told her that they had gone days or weeks without showering but that they were afraid of speaking out because they feared retribution from the guards. "It’s not just the kids. It’s everyone. People drinking out of toilets, officers laughing in front of members of Congress," Ocasio-Cortez wrote about the situation she witnessed.
According to Rep. Joe Kennedy, the only reason that the Congress members were able to speak with women detained in El Paso was because Ocasio-Cortez cut the guided tour short and instead demanded to stop.
Following their visit to the El Paso center, the Congress members visited the Clint facility and described similar scenes of squalor. Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter that she met with children who only spoke indigenous languages, meaning they have not been able to communicate to the guards for the days, weeks, or months that they'd been detained.
After visits to both facilities, the Congress members gave a press conference, where they were met with pro-detention center protestors. Ocasio-Cortez retweeted clips of her own address to the press, as well as comments made by Pressley and Tlaib.
"What we saw today was unconscionable," Ocasio-Cortez wrote. "No child should ever be separated from their parent. No child should ever be taken from their family. No woman should ever be locked up in a pen when they have done no harm to another human being."
While Pressley spoke at the conference, the protestors could be heard yelling "they're illegal" and "you're supporting human trafficking." But she continued to speak. "I learned a long time ago that when change happens it's either because people see the light or they feel the fire," Pressley declared. "We're lifting up these stories in the hopes that you will see the light. And if you don't, we will bring the fire."
During Tlaib's speech, the protestors became even more vocal, and began yelling out racist taunts at the Congresswoman, who is Muslim. America first! America first," people could be heard screaming at Tlaib, who could barely be heard over the group. "We believe in Jesus Christ! We don't care about Sharia law," someone else shouted, while someone else said, "Boo hoo hoo humanity."
"I will out-love your hate," Tlaib responded. "You all can outscream me, but I will never stop speaking truth to power."
Just hours before the politicians' visit to the detention facilities, Propublica published an investigation into a Facebook group of roughly 9,500 CBP officers. The page was filled with racist memes about migrants and featured posts making fun of dead migrants. There were also sexually explicit images depicting Ocasio-Cortez performing oral sex on Trump.
The representative didn't hold back when addressing the report's findings about the agency later in the day. "9,500 CBP officers sharing memes about dead migrants and discussing violence and sexual misconduct towards members of Congress," Ocasio-Cortez wrote. "How on earth can CBP’s culture be trusted to care for refugees humanely?"
Following the report's release, Border Patrol responded to the allegations brought forth both in the piece and by the Congress members themselves. "We take all the posts that were put out today very seriously," US Border Patrol Chief of Operations Brian Hastings told CNN's Brooke Baldwin on Monday. "These do not represent the thoughts of the men and women of the US Border Patrol. Each one of these allegations will be thoroughly investigated."
Hastings also denied the claim brought forth by multiple Congress members that detainees were drinking water out of toilets. "Drinking out of the toilet is completely untrue," Hastings told CNN.
After the report came out, the CBP allegedly released statements intending to defame the Congress members, according screenshots posted by journalists and retweeted by Ocasio-Cortez.
The Border Patrol union released a statement alleging that Ocasio-Cortez called the Border Patrol agents "Nazis." Yet while the representative has compared the detention centers to concentration camps and called the CBP a rogue agency, she has not compared any immigration law enforcement to "Nazis."
"I can’t understate how disturbing it was that CBP officers were openly disrespectful of the Congressional tour," Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter. "If officers felt comfortable violating agreements in front of their *own* management & superiors, that tells us the agency has lost all control of their own officers."