The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General’s Office found “dangerous overcrowding” and prolonged detention of children and adults at facilities in the Rio Grande Valley, the agency watchdog revealed Tuesday.
In a letter to Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, the office urged the agency to “take immediate steps to alleviate” the situation.
Photos included in the report show migrants at the facilities crowded behind fences and sleeping on the floor with aluminum blankets.
Roughly 8,000 immigrants were being held at the five Border Patrol facilities visited by the watchdog, 3,400 of which had been held longer than the 72 hours generally permitted under Customs and Border Protection standards.
When immigrants detained in the facilities saw investigators walking through, they banged on the cell windows and displayed notes to show the length of time they had spent in custody, according to the report.
Out of the 2,669 children at the facilities, 826 had been held longer than 72 hours.
Children at three of the five facilities had no access to showers and limited access to a change of clothes.
They were also not provided hot meals, another requirement under CBP standards.
Some adults at the facilities were held in standing room only conditions for a week.
“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,” inspectors wrote in the report.
One senior facility manager interviewed called the situation “a ticking time bomb” because the conditions are agitating the immigrants.
House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonTech giants pressed in House hearing on policing extremist content The Hill’s Morning Report – Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? Artificial intelligence can’t solve online extremism issue, experts tell House panel MORE (D-Miss.) slammed the DHS over the conditions described in Tuesday’s report.
“This report shows that DHS is not making progress to address the humanitarian crisis at the border that the Administration has played a central part in creating,” Thompson said in a statement.
“DHS is still holding migrants — including families and children — in dangerous and unsanitary conditions. These facilities are clearly inhumane. Migrants should not be forced to live in standing room only facilities without access to showers for weeks because DHS cannot leverage its resources effectively. We can and must do better — we need immigration policies that are humane and reflect our core American values. DHS must utilize alternatives to mass indefinite detention programs.”
DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.
Tuesday’s report follows a similar one by the department OIG about conditions at El Paso facilities from May, which was made public Monday.
That came after acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan said last week that reports of poor conditions for children at a border station in the El Paso sector were “unsubstantiated.”
The revelations of the conditions immigrants are facing in detention have increased pressure on the Trump administration over the handling of the surge of immigrants entering through the U.S.-Mexico border.
Separate groups of Democratic lawmakers visited facilities in Texas and Florida this week to bring attention to the situation.