Migrants held at a border patrol station in Texas were being kept in “horrifying” conditions that included psychological abuse and being told to drink out of toilets, Representative Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez said after a visit to the facility with other U.S. lawmakers on Monday.
A delegation of lawmakers from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus were touring the border patrol facilities following reports from a government watchdog that immigrants were being housed in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.
First-term Democratic Congresswoman Ocasio–Cortez wrote on Twitter after leaving the main border patrol station in El Paso that she had seen women in cells with no water who had been told to drink out of toilets.
“After I forced myself into a cell w/ women&began speaking to them, one of them described their treatment at the hands of officers as “psychological warfare,” she wrote.
“This has been horrifying so far.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which oversees Border Patrol, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on her statements.
Conditions at U.S. facilities holding migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border have become a flashpoint in recent weeks after an internal government watchdog warned of “dangerous overcrowding” at the El Paso facility in May. In June, immigration lawyers raised alarms over squalid conditions facing hundreds of children at another facility in Clint, Texas. The lawmakers visited both Texas facilities on Monday.
U.S. President Donald Trump has made cracking down on illegal immigration a centerpiece of his administration, but officials say a renewed crush of mostly Central Americans arriving at the border has strained resources.
The Border Patrol also came under fire on Monday following a report by the non-profit news site ProPublica that said offensive content had been posted on a private Facebook group for current and former CBP officers. Posts included jokes about the deaths of migrants and sexually explicit comments referencing Ocasio–Cortez, a representative from New York, the news outlet reported.
After leaving the El Paso facility, Ocasio–Cortez wrote in a tweet, “I see why CBP officers were being so physically & sexually threatening towards me,” an apparent reference to the Facebook group.
CBP condemned the Facebook group and acknowledged that it may include a number of the agency’s employees.