Testimonies from Members of Congress who visited CBP facilities in July 2019

We’ve been hearing a lot about conditions in detention facilities operated by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), including years’ worth of press and other reports.

On July 1st, a delegation of Members of Congress organized by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus traveled to Texas to see some of these facilities themselves, bearing witness using Congress’s Constitutional authority of oversight over the Executive Branch. They had scheduled these visits in advance; CBP knew they were coming and had time to prepare.

What the Members saw horrified them.

We were likewise horrified and moved to gather the testimonies that they posted on Twitter in a place where they can all be read in one place.

We must understand that this is what our federal government is doing to people in our name. And we must tell our Members of Congress: This is what CBP spends our money on.

We must reject the false logic that CBP promulgates, that these facilities are “underfunded” and require more of our dollars. We must tell our Members of Congress: #DefundHate; don’t spend another penny of our money on this atrocity.

We must remind ourselves that these are people, human beings, with human rights, who have done nothing more than come to the United States. But because our federal government did not give them permission to do so, our federal government takes them captive and puts them in these facilities.

Not one more penny for ICE and CBP to detain and brutalize innocent people.


Warning: The conditions described in the following tweets are truly horrifying.


July 1

Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX-20)

Photo of women in one facility, taken by Rep. Castro (TX-20).

The video shows a roomful of women in blue sleeping bags.

Short video clip showing the interior of a small shower stall.

Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27)

The video is of Rep. Chu speaking into the camera during a car ride, describing what she saw at the El Paso Border Patrol Station.

We talked to a group of women detainees who said that they didn’t have running water. One was an epileptic and she couldn’t get her medication. They were separated from their children. They’ve been there over 50 days. One Border Patrol agent told her, if she wanted water, just to drink from a toilet.

Rep. Madeleine Dean (PA-04)

Rep. Veronica Escobar (TX-16)

Rep. Joe Kennedy III (MA-04)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14)

The video shows Rep. Ocasio-Cortez speaking to a crowd of reporters from the inside of a car. “And that was them knowing that a Congressional visit was coming! This was CBP on their best behavior!”

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is referring to a ProPublica article that had been published that morning about a Facebook group of CBP agents, in which participating CBP agents made horrible, violent jokes about people coming to the United States, and about Members of Congress, including Rep. Ocasio-Cortez herself.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez holding a 35-ml packet of “Meridian” shampoo. (Meridian also sells an all-in-one shampoo/shower/shave gel, but this is a different product.)

Photo from a court filing of a combination toilet and sink from a CBP facility in Tucson, AZ (not one of the facilities in Texas that the MoCs visited on July 1). Rep. Ocasio-Cortez confirms in a reply that this is the same type of fixture they saw in one of the Texas facilities.

Photo from a court filing of a combination toilet and sink from a CBP facility in Tucson, AZ (not one of the facilities in Texas that the MoCs visited on July 1). Rep. Ocasio-Cortez confirms in a reply that this is the same type of fixture they saw in one of the Texas facilities.

Jonathan Katz, the reporter responsible for some of the video clips from that day, offered to visit these facilities and independently verify what the MoCs had witnessed. AOC responds:

Another photo, taken by Rep. Castro and posted by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, of women in one detention facility. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is embracing one of the women in the lower-right corner of the photo.

Another photo, taken by Rep. Castro and posted by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, of women in one detention facility. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is embracing one of the women in the lower-right corner of the photo.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (MA-07)

Rep. Pressley didn’t directly tweet about what she saw, but she spoke at the press event, so there are a couple of videos from the press of her comments.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI-13)

Here’s the video.

Video of Rep. Tlaib addressing the camera.

And [Rep. Escobar (TX-16)] was saying that at least this facility has some access to A/C, bathrooms, and so forth, but they also have these tents outside of this facility here, and they have a lot of adults out there. Some have been out there for two months, no access to shower…

The high temperature in El Paso, TX on July 1, 2019 was 103°F.

Rep. Lori Trahan (MA-03)

Rep. Marc Veasey (TX-33)


July 13

Another delegation of 20 Members of Congress visited the McAllen Border Patrol Station and Ursula Processing Center in McAllen, TX.

Rep. Jackie Speier (CA-14)

A colorful play area sits against the warehouse wall of the Ursula detention center. (Photo credit: Rep. Jackie Speier)

A colorful play area sits against the warehouse wall of the Ursula detention center. (Photo credit: Rep. Jackie Speier)

A cage containing a number of detained people, including children, and numerous Mylar blankets. (Photo credit: Rep. Jackie Speier)

A cage containing a number of detained people, including children, and numerous Mylar blankets. (Photo credit: Rep. Jackie Speier)

Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-02)

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (NY-07)

July 15th

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40)


What you can do

If you’re as horrified by what these Members of Congress witnessed as we are, please:

  • Call your Members of Congress and ask them to #CloseTheCamps. There’s no reason why we need to lock these people up, especially in these conditions. The only reason is to dehumanize them.

  • Get involved in the 2020 elections. There’s no wrong place to get involved:

    • Ending Trump’s reign of terror would put DHS under the Administration of a president who might have a conscience. A president with a conscience would #CloseTheCamps and bring justice to all the CBP agents who are complicit in these human rights abuses.

    • Keeping the House and/or flipping the Senate means maintaining or increasing Congressional oversight. Congress must not look away.

    • State governments are vital! Most legislatures control redistricting, and it may be possible to enact a non-partisan redistricting commission from the ballot box. Ending gerrymandering helps keep politicians accountable for their deeds. Also, state governments can restrict or end collaboration with ICE and CBP, such as using state or local prisons as immigrant detention facilities.

  • Talk with friends and family about this. Ask them if they’re aware of what the government is doing on the southern border, and how they feel about it. Suggest that they call Congress, or invite them to join you at a protest.

  • If you’re not already a member of an Indivisible group, find your local group and join up. If you’re in San Francisco, check us out!

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