Federal government inspectors released a report pointing to dangerous overcrowding at Border Patrol facilities in the Rio Grande Valley, a region where a majority of the migrant crossings are taking place.
Between October 2018 to May 2019, there were more than 220,000 apprehensions in the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector, a 124% increase from the same period the previous year.
The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security visited five Border Patrol facilities and two ports of entry in the Rio Grande Valley last month.
At the time of the visit, Border Patrol held about 8,000 people in those facilities. Of those detainees, 3,400 were in custody longer than the 72-hour limit under TEDS standards, and 1,500 of those people were held for more than 10 days.
The report also said children at three of the five facilities didn’t have access to showers and had limited access to fresh clothing.
It also found that 826, about 31% of the 2,669 children at the facilities, had been held longer than the 72-hour allowed limit under the Flores Settlement Agreement and TEDS standards.
Senior managers at several facilities had security concerns for their agents and the detainees. One of them told inspectors that the situation was “a ticking time bomb.”
Inspectors had to end one of their tours early because detainees started banging on cell windows and pushing papers up against the glass to show how long they had been detained.
Civil rights groups like the ACLU of Texas, which previously filed complaints regarding the mistreatment of migrants at the border facilities, quickly reacted to the report.
“Every human being is deserving of dignity and respect, without exception," said Rochelle Garza, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas. "Overcrowding, people, including pregnant women and children, into standing-room only cells and not allowing them to leave or shower for more than a month violates all standards and rights, and basic human decency.”
“Instead of directing efforts toward humanitarian protection and basic due process rights, the Trump administration is prioritizing cruel immigration enforcement," she added. "Congress must hold DHS accountable and ensure that the urgent problems outlined in the OIG report are fixed immediately.”
DHS said it has taken measures to expand the capacity of Customs and Border Protection forces on the southern border. The agency said it added two tents in the Rio Grande Valley capable of holding 500 people each and will add another by the end of the month.