WASHINGTON – Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich) said Friday that conditions at the Texas border facilities they visited earlier this month were grim and need immediate action.
Representatives Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass), Veronica Escobar ( D-Texas) as well as Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib testified at a Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing about their visits to border stations at Clint and El Paso.
Ocasio-Cortez insisted on being sworn in, taking the unusual step after several Republicans on the panel sought to blame conditions at border patrol stations on what they said was Democratic inaction on drug cartels and other criminals trying to enter the country illegally with children.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the top Republican on the committee, accused Democrats of tarnishing the name of border agents.
“The reality is that our border agents are working tirelessly on the crisis that they did not create,” Jordan said.
Jordan criticized Democrats for mischaracterizing conditions at the border. Ocasio-Cortez responded that the crisis was “manufactured” because there was no need to brand undocumented immigrants as criminals and separate them from their children.
“This is a manufactured crisis because the cruelty is manufactured,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “There is no need for us to do this.”
Tlaib, visibly upset as she described what she had seen during a visit to the Clint patrol station, said the U.S. should not be turning away people who come to the country seeking refuge. Her voice broke as she described how a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl had died of sepsis.
“It’s a dangerous ideology that rules the nation right now,” Tlaib said.
But Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz) said Republicans had been “sounding the alarm for years and years” on the situation at the border. She suggested Ocasio-Cortez’s account that detainees were drinking out of toilets was unfounded, and that clean water was on hand.
President Donald Trump recently signed a $4.6 billion border aid package to address the crisis on the border. Then, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General released a July 2 report on conditions for migrants detained at three border patrol stations in the Rio Grande Valley – McAllen, Weslaco, and Fort Brown – detailing “dangerous overcrowding.”
According to the report, one senior border patrol official said conditions created “a ticking time bomb.” The report also noted that children were going without hot meals, showers, and clean clothing.
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Elora Mukherjee, a director with the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic who also visited the Clint border patrol station, said she saw one 6-year-old girl who could only say “I’m scared” over and over again. Another 6-year-old boy sobbed for nearly an hour before he finally managed to tell her he had a brother.
She said she had seen guards enter cells and demand that older children take care of the younger kids.
“I was, and remain, shaken to the core by what I witnessed at Clint,” Mukherjee said.