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Democratic lawmaker says she ‘did not see progress’ in border detention facility conditions

Posted at 8:27 AM, Jul 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-02 10:27:36-04

A Democratic lawmaker who recently toured Texas detention facilities claimed she’s seen no improvements in conditions for the detained migrants.

“I did not see progress,” Rep. Norma Torres of California told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day” Tuesday, adding later, “I want to be sure that you understand that the conditions have not changed a single bit from the last time where I was at one of these locations eight months ago.”

On Monday, members of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus toured a Health and Human Services facility for migrant children in El Paso and two border patrol facilities — one in El Paso and one in Clint, which has come under scrutiny after allegations of poor health and hygiene.

“What I saw were jail cells, cement jail cells, where children are being kept alone in group-like settings,” Torres told CNN. “Children that are sitting and sleeping on the floor with an air conditioner going full blast, wearing nothing but the dirty clothes, and being covered with an aluminum type of sheet.”

Torres also told CNN she did not feel safe being inside the facility, echoing Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who also toured the facilities Monday. Torres claimed she and other Democratic lawmakers were disrespected during their tour, saying that border patrol agents took photos and selfies with the group in the background.

“This is what they are doing to members of Congress in front of their leadership,” said Torres, who was emotional at times during her interview on CNN. “So you could imagine what happens behind closed doors within these cells to children as young as 2 years old.”

Torres said she was upset by the “lack of respect for human life.”

“We need to send every single one of these border agents back to training because they certainly haven’t been versed on what is humane and inhumane,” Torres said.

As the congressional delegation toured the facilities Monday, a report by the investigative reporting group ProPublica revealed a closed Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents that reportedly features jokes about migrant deaths, derogatory comments about Latina lawmakers and a lewd meme involving at least one of them.

US Border Patrol Chief of Operations Brian Hastings told CNN on Monday, that the postings do not represent the views of the law enforcement agency and that “each one of these allegations will be thoroughly investigated.”

CNN has not been able to independently access and review the Facebook group posts in question.