More than 700 migrants have to share just four showers at a Border Patrol station in El Paso, according to a report by the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security.
Inspectors found horrible conditions at the station, the name of which is redact in the report, obtained by NBC News. The station, toured on May 7, is so crowded that more than half the migrants there are being held outside, according to the report. The ones who are kept inside are held in cells that are so crowded they can’t even lie down to sleep — one cell with a maximum capacity of 35 people held 155 men, according to the report. The situation is getting so dire that agents are gearing up for riots.
Overcrowding and poor hygiene is facilitating the spread of disease at the station, leading to flu, lice, and scabies outbreaks. The report found that more than 75 people were treated for lice in a single day.
These conditions don’t appear to be limited to a single station. Last month, BuzzFeed News obtained a draft of an inspector general report detailing a visit to two Border Patrol stations in the Rio Grande Valley during the week of June 10.
The inspectors who visited those facilities also saw adults being held in standing-room-only cells for upwards of a week. Most of them hadn’t showered for almost a month and were instead given wet wipes to clean themselves, according to the report. Instead of hot meals, they were given bologna sandwiches, which the report said led to medical issues like constipation.
The inspector general reports echo what immigration attorneys say children are experiencing at these facilities. Lawyers who visited Border Patrol stations that hold children during the last two weeks of June said hundreds of kids had been held in these facilities for weeks. The children were forced to sleep on the floor, denied showers, and given substandard meals, according to lawyers. Dozens of them had been quarantined following a flu outbreak, and several others had lice.
Kevin McAleenan, the acting secretary of DHS, called these allegations “unsubstantiated” last week. But the two reports come from the DHS’s office of the inspector general, and the poor conditions detailed in them appear to be taking a toll on agents, too.
“The current situation where immigrants are simply giving themselves up to the border patrol [and border patrol must detain] is causing low morale and high anxiety,” the report reads, “[Border Patrol is] seeing more drinking, domestic violence and financial problems among their agents.”
Cover image: This May 29, 2019 photo released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) shows some of 1,036 migrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, the largest that the Border Patrol says it has ever encountered. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)