Brooke Singman, Fox News, July 3, 2019
Current and former immigration officials pushed back Tuesday at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez‘s high-profile accusations of cruel treatment at an El Paso border station, rejecting her claim that agents forced detainees to “drink out of the toilets” and insisting that their personnel “don’t treat people that way.”
Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., traveled to the border on Monday with almost a dozen members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, as she blasted border officials as “violent” and “inhumane” — while claiming agents forced migrant women and children being detained in cells to drink toilet water.
“They are not drinking out of the toilet—no Border Patrol agent is going to make anyone drink out of the toilet,” former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director Tom Homan said on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom” Tuesday. “It’s just ridiculous on its face.”
Homan suggested she was simply referring to the “apparatus” in holding cells that has an attached sink and toilet, but two separate water lines.
“You’re drinking out of the same apparatus, the same piece of equipment, but there are two separate water lines—one going to the commode, one going to the sink,” Homan explained. “… [T]hey are designed that way to try to save space and make it more comfortable for the people who are in those facilities.”
Images of that “apparatus” were circulating on social media as Ocasio-Cortez critics challenged her account.
Homan acknowledged that the facilities “are jails” and “were not built for women and children,” saying that’s why agents have been “begging” Congress for more funding for beds “so these families can be moved into a proper facility with proper care.”
Former acting ICE director Ron Vitiello also pushed back on Ocasio-Cortez’s claims.
“I have never seen anything like that,” Vitiello said on “Fox & Friends.” “And look, she was there for three minutes and now she’s an expert on what this facility looks like?”
But a Department of Homeland Security official told Fox News on Tuesday that CBP agents “are not equipped for the sheer volume of people” in facilities.
“HHS is backed up with children, so there is a real backlog at the CBP facilities there,” the official explained. “It’s a real problem. The supplemental funding will help, but it’s a band-aid on a much bigger problem.”
The visit to the border station has been the subject of fierce controversy. Not only are Democratic lawmakers and immigration officials at odds over Ocasio-Cortez’s claims about the conditions, but witnesses told The Washington Examiner that the lawmaker was “screaming” at the agents and behaving in a “threatening” manner.