Cedar Attanasio, Associated Press, June 14, 2019
The Trump administration is facing growing complaints from migrants about severe overcrowding, meager food and other hardships at border holding centers, with some people at an encampment in El Paso being forced to sleep on the bare ground during dust storms.
The Border Network for Human Rights issued a report Friday based on dozens of testimonials of immigrants over the past month and a half, providing a snapshot of cramped conditions and prolonged stays in detention amid a record surge of migrant families coming into the U.S. from Central America.
Customs and Border Protection responded to the complaints by saying: “Allegations are not facts. If there is an issue it is best to contact CBP directly. In many cases the matter can be resolved immediately.”
Many of the complaints center on El Paso, where the inspector general found severe overcrowding inside a processing center. A cell designed for a dozen people was crammed with 76, and migrants had to stand on the toilets.
With indoor facilities overcrowded, the Border Patrol has kept some immigrants outside and in tents near a bridge in El Paso with nothing but a Mylar foil blanket. Others have been kept in an empty parking lot, where migrants huddled underneath tarps and foil blankets repurposed as shade covers against the sweltering heat.
Migrants in El Paso and elsewhere also complained of inadequate food such as a single burrito and a cup of water per day. Women said they were denied feminine hygiene products.
Another complaint is that migrants are kept in detention beyond the 72-hour limit set by Customs and Border Protection. Some reported being held for 30 days or more, and one told The Associated Press she had been in detention for around 45 days.
An exodus of people fleeing poverty, drought and violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador has led to a record number of migrant families being apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months. Agents made 132,887 apprehensions in May, including a record 84,542 adults and children traveling together. Those apprehended also included 11,507 children traveling alone.