Internal watchdog urges "immediate steps" on immigrant overcrowding

In the midst of rising complaints from Democrats about crowded conditions in immigrant detention facilities, and demands by President Donald Trump for actions to stem the flow of illegal immigration, the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday urged "immediate steps to alleviate dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults" in federal holding facilities in the Rio Grande Valley.

"During our visits to five Border Patrol facilities in the Rio Grande Valley, we observed serious overcrowding," stated the report from Acting Inspector General Jennifer Costello.

The report was accompanied by pictures of the excessive numbers of people crammed into holding cells, showing overcrowding of families at Border Patrol facilities in McAllen, Weslaco, and Fort Brown, Texas.

"We are concerned that overcrowding and prolonged detention represent an immediate risk to the health and safety of DHS agents and officers, and to those detained," the report stated.

"Senior managers at several facilities raised security concerns for their agents and the detainees," the report continued. "For example, one called the situation “a ticking time bomb.” Moreover, we ended our site visit at one Border Patrol facility early because our presence was agitating an already difficult situation," the Inspector General added.

The internal report also detailed how the large number of detainees being processed by immigration officials had resulted in many children being held longer than is allowed under the Flores court settlement.

It also resulted in sanitary troubles for children as well.

"For example, children at three of the five Border Patrol facilities we visited had no access to showers," adding that "children had limited access to a change of clothes."

While inspectors found adequate food, "we observed that two facilities had not provided children access to hot meals" until the week that officials visited the holding facilities.

The release of the report came as House Democrats set a hearing for next week with top Homeland Security officials on the detention situation, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on the President to improve conditions for children being held after entering the country illegally.

“The Trump Administration’s actions at the southern border are grotesque and dehumanizing,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, which set a hearing for July 12.

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