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'Help': Photos show hundreds of migrants squashed into cells, appealing for assistance

Julia Ainsley and Annie Rose Ramos
Key Points
  • Government investigators have identified poor conditions in another sector of the southern border, publishing graphic photos showing extreme overcrowding in Rio Grande Valley migrant facilities and finding that children there did not have access to showers and had to sleep on concrete floors, NBC reports.
  • Investigators for the Department of Homeland Security who visited border stations in the El Paso, Texas, sector in May found similar conditions: migrants being held in temporary facilities for weeks rather than days, single adults living in standing room-only cells with no space to lie down, and concerns about serious health risks.
Overcrowding at a Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Texas, observed by staff of the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General.
Source: Office of the Inspector General

Government investigators have identified poor conditions in another sector of the southern border, publishing graphic photos showing extreme overcrowding in Rio Grande Valley migrant facilities and finding that children there did not have access to showers and had to sleep on concrete floors, NBC reports.

Investigators for the Department of Homeland Security who visited border stations in the El Paso, Texas, sector in May found similar conditions: migrants being held in temporary facilities for weeks rather than days, single adults living in standing room-only cells with no space to lie down, and concerns about serious health risks.

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The investigators for the DHS Office of the Inspector General toured five Border Patrol facilities and two ports of entry in the Rio Grande Valley sector during the week of June 10 and published their report as a "management alert" to the department on Tuesday.

Read the full report here.

The Rio Grande Valley of Texas has the highest volume of immigrants along the United States-Mexico border. At the time of the visits by investigators, Border Patrol was holding 8,000 detainees in custody, with 3,400 being held longer than the 72-hour limit.

Overcrowding of families observed by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General on June 10, 2019, at Border Patrol's McAllen, Texas, station.
Source: OIG

One senior manager at a facility called the situation a "ticking time bomb," according to the report. When immigrants detained in the facilities saw investigators walking through, they banged on the cell windows and pressed notes against the plexiglass to show the length of time they had spent in custody. One said, "Help. 40 Day Here."

On Monday, NBC News published findings by the inspector general that detailed poor conditions for migrants in border stations in El Paso as far back as May 7. Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan said at a press conference Friday that reports of poor conditions for children in border stations were "unsubstantiated." McAleenan said children were given showers as soon as they could be made available.

"Most single adults had not had a shower in CBP custody despite several being held for as long as a month," according to the latest report on conditions in the Rio Grande Valley.

The report also detailed what it called "security incidents" in which immigrants have tried to escape and once refused to return to their cells after being removed during maintenance. To address the problem, Border Patrol called in its special operations force to "demonstrate it was prepared to use force if necessary," the report said.

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Key Points
  • The Senate approves a $4.6 billion emergency border aid plan. 
  • It now has to reconcile the measure with a separate, $4.5 billion aid bill passed by Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats. 
  • The votes come as the Trump administration faces backlash for the treatment of migrant children at a U.S. detention facility in Texas.