House Democrats continued to express outrage Tuesday at the conditions of migrant detention centers across the country after touring one of the facilities designated for children in Homestead, Florida.
The lawmakers labeled what they saw inside of the private, for-profit facility as something that was too-good-to-be-true, suggesting it could have been staged. The congressional delegation of at least nine lawmakers toured the facility just days after several 2020 Democratic hopefuls were only allowed so far as the processing area.
"What I saw in there was almost too perfect — beds perfectly made," said Representative Jahana Hayes, a Democrat from Connecticut. "Either they're doing a great job here, or they missed out on an opportunity to ask Congress for help."
The Trump administration has increasingly faced scrutiny from lawmakers over the conditions of the migrant detention facilities, as independent reviews have suggested many of them are overcrowded and lack basic necessities.
As a result of the reportedly inadequate conditions that detained migrants — especially children — have faced, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said Tuesday that he invited Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan and Acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan to testify before Congress July 12. Cummings did not say whether he received a response from the Trump officials.
The Maryland Democrat further stated that the committee would probe the recent revelation of a private Facebook group uncovered by ProPublica, where alleged current and former border agents made disparaging remarks about migrants and members of Congress.
"They should be prosecuted," said Representative Frederica Wilson, the South Florida Democrat who led the congressional delegation on the migrant facility tour. "You cannot threaten members of Congress. But this is how this president has taken this country to its knees. People have lost respect for Congress. People have lost respect for the media and people have lost respect for the White House."
Among the Facebook comments and pictures on the private page were ones targeting New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who toured a detention facility in Texas on Monday with fellow lawmakers. One illustration showed the freshman, outspoken Democrat performing oral sex on a migrant detainee.
At the Homestead detention facility, migrant children apprehended for illegally crossing the border, who were subsequently separated from their families, have remained there longer than is legally acceptable, according to an internal population census of the facility provided to The New York Times by an employee. The census from June 25 reportedly showed that of the more than 2,000 migrant children housed there, 1,162 of them had been there for longer than the 20-day maximum period allowed. Some children had been there for as long as four months — or roughly 120 days.
"I came here to bare witness to the truth. I was shocked at how little we saw of the children, how little we saw of any kind of educational value," said Representative Madeleine Dean, a Pennsylvania Democrat and former college English professor at La Salle University.
"We need to shut this down, because what this is, is a warehouse for children for profit," she added.
Representative Katherine Clark of Massachusetts said the facility tour resulted in "more questions raised than answered."
"What is it going to take to comply with the law and have the children reunited with their sponsors, their family members within the 20 days? That is the law... and it is not being met," said Clark, a member of House Democratic leadership as vice chair of the caucus.
New photos released Tuesday as part of an internal government watchdog report showed severe overcrowding at a detention facility in Rio Grande Valley, Texas. The report was classified by investigators from Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General as a "management alert" and urged for the department to take "immediate steps to alleviate dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults."
Investigators found that the facility was a "ticking time bomb" that contained migrants who were not afforded a shower for weeks and were left to sleeping on the concrete floors, a similar picture that was painted by a separate investigation by DHS OIG in May of border stations in El Paso, Texas.
The House Democrats and presidential candidates who've toured detention facilities across the country in recent days vowed legislative action would take place in the future to combat such conditions and to prevent the separation of families.
"When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to say something," said Representative John Lewis after touring the Homestead facility. The Georgia Democrat is a civil rights icon who played a prominent role in the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965 that became known as "Bloody Sunday."
"You have to do something," he added.
Original story here.