A video taken and posted on Twitter by NBC News shows men behind a chain-link fence in an overcrowded immigration detention facility in McAllen, Texas, shouting to reporters that they had “no shower” and that they were only getting “three tacos” to eat each day.
Vice President Mike Pence can be seen visiting the facility in the video, along with agents wearing face masks, and men lined up against a fence or sitting on the concrete floor with tin-foil blankets.
“I was deeply moved to see the care that our Customs and Border Protection personnel are providing,” Pence told reporters at the center. “Coming here, to this station, where single adults are held, I’ve equally been inspired by the efforts of Customs and Protection doing a tough job in a difficult environment.”
He went on to say that the system was overwhelmed by the crisis, referring to the illegal border crossings and asylum claims — which are legal— at the border.
One man said, motioning with his hands, that he’d been in the facility for 40 days. Michael Banks, a border patrol agent, told reporters that the longest anyone had been held at the facility was 32 days.
Banks also told reporters at The Washington Post that the men were able to brush their teeth once a day, and although the facility now has a shower trailer for detainees to use, some of the men seen in the video had not showered in 10 or 20 days.
The video also shows men shouting that they have little food. One says “we get three tacos a day.” There have been other reports of poor food conditions at other federal detention facilities — at one facility in Texas, young mothers were only able to feed their babies potato chips and formula that was not always age-appropriate, Bloomberg’s Deena Shanker and Polly Mosendez reported. Other people at the detention center were reportedly fed slimy sandwiches, unwashed fruit, and other unhealthy food.
Pence also visited a family facility in Donna, Texas, where he asked families and children — most likely Spanish speakers— held at the newer facility if they were receiving good care, likely to disprove accounts of poor conditions, little soap and toothpaste, and children sleeping on concrete at other facilities. Most nodded. The Donna facility, which has a capacity of 1,000, currently holds 800 detainees.
A reporter who accompanied Pence to the Donna facility was not allowed to speak with children or adults held there, NBC News’ Dennis Romero reported.
Pence maintained his support of Border Patrol at the Donna facility, saying, “I couldn’t be more impressed with the compassionate work that our Customs and Border Protection are doing here at this border facility.”
He also refuted claims that the centers are concentration camps, disagreeing with Trump critics such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He said that Democrats need to step up and do their jobs to end the crisis in a tweet Friday.
Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, accompanied Pence to the facilities on Friday. He also praised both Customs and Border Patrol for their work, saying that the agents are patriots. He said that the problem could be fixed “literally overnight,” by Democrats.