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AOC and other Democrats visit El Paso, Clint border facilities in Texas

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A group of lawmakers visited two border facilities in Clint and El Paso, Texas, on Monday, and they made sure everyone knew about the poor living conditions they saw by sharing graphic details of their trip via Twitter.

The visit was organized by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus after reports about the Clint border facility indicated that migrant children were being neglected. According to the Associated Press, children were separated from their families, sat in soiled diapers, and ate meals with little nutritional value.

Then on Monday, ProPublica reported on a private Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents where they shared derogatory comments about migrants and female lawmakers, including those on the tour. One post suggested a GoFundMe should be made to compensate whoever would hurl a burrito at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) during their visit to the Clint border facility. Members also made sexist comments about Ocasio-Cortez, sharing photoshopped images of her in sexually explicit situations.

In a news conference after their tour of the facilities, lawmakers tried to share the bleak details of what they saw — although their words were drowned out by protesters calling for more border security and deportations, according to the New York Times. Many of the protesters used racist and sexist language. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), one of the first Muslim women to join Congress, along with Ilhan Omar, had to speak over a protester yelling, “We don’t want Muslims here.”

“You can all scream at me,” Tlaib said. “I will never stop speaking truth to power.”

In a statement about ProPublica’s investigation, Customs and Border Protection chief Carla Provost said, “These posts are completely inappropriate and contrary to the honor and integrity I see — and expect — from our agents day in and day out.” CBP has initiated an investigation and said any employees who have violated the agency’s guidelines will be held accountable.

CBP Deputy Commissioner Robert Perez also appeared on CNN on Tuesday to respond to lawmakers’ criticism of the poor conditions within the facilities. While he emphasized that the system is currently “oversaturated,” he said he is confident that CBP is meeting strict standards when it comes to access to fresh water and hygiene products.

“We’ve had dozens of congressional staffers and delegations come through our facilities,” he said. “As far as I’ve been made aware this is the first time these types of allegations have been made to us.”

Here’s what every lawmaker who visited Clint said about their trip to the border facility:

Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-TX)

While all the lawmakers were required to hand in their cellphones during the tour, Castro was able to use a device to take footage of the facilities’ crowded cells and showers, which he later shared on Twitter. He described the showers as “dank, dirty and only too small in number for the hundreds of people there just a few weeks ago.”

Castro said the “border patrol system is broken” and continues to stay broken because it is kept a secret — which is why the group of lawmakers shared the details of their tour. The Texas Congress member called for a change from the current “morally bankrupt” culture.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)

After ProPublica released its article on the Border Patrol officers’ Facebook group, Ocasio-Cortez reaffirmed that she would still be visiting the border facilities, despite having read about the threats targeting her within the group.

In a series of tweets, shewrote about the women she met who were sobbing “out of fear of being punished, out of sickness, out of desperation, lack of sleep, trauma, despair.”

Ocasio-Cortez also shared details of women having to drink out of toilet bowls because of their lack of access to water.

Like many of the other lawmakers who visited the facilities, Ocasio-Cortez said she was shocked by the lack of accountability.

She also directly addressed the comments made toward her in the CBP officer Facebook group.

Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX)

Like Ocasio-Cortez, Escobar was specifically targeted within the Border Patrol officer Facebook group. She said the poor living conditions at the border facilities were a problem that came from a “disconnection from our values,” specifically pointing to officers involved in the Facebook group.

Escobar also shared a video of a protester yelling curses at her and the other lawmakers during the news conference held after the tour. The protester can be heard screaming, “What about El Paso citizens?” and calling Escobar “lawless” and “fake.”

Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA)

In a video shared on Twitter, Chu described what she saw as “appalling and disgusting.” She also expressed concern over the CBP Facebook group and what that said about the integrity of border officials.

“If they have these kind of derogatory feelings about us, you can only imagine what they’re thinking about these detainees,” she said. “These are the ones who’re in charge of them? Well, there seriously has to be some change.”

Tuesday morning, Chu also shared her bill with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), HR 1069, which would shut down unlicensed temporary emergency shelters for children who have been separated from their families.

Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA)

Aguilar called the conditions “heartbreaking and abhorrent.”

Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA)

In a tweet where she shared a video of herself being interviewed by Univision, Torres called for more transparency and demanded answers from CBP about the poor living conditions within the border facilities.

She also shared a video of her interview with CNN Tuesday morning where she discussed more details about the facilities she toured, such as children wearing dirty clothes and covering themselves with aluminum-type sheets.

“Imagine your child having to live under those conditions,” she said. “It is inhumane. It is embarrassing. And what we need to do is we need to send every single one of these border agents back to training because they certainly haven’t been versed in what is humane and inhumane.”

Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX)

While Garcia didn’t detail her visit on Twitter like her colleagues, she did post about the need for an immediate investigation into the Border Patrol officer Facebook group.

Rep. Lori Trahan (D-MA)

After touring the El Paso facility, Trahan said she was “horrified” by the conditions she saw. In the past, she had tweeted that, as the mother of two young daughters, she was “disturbed by reports of children being denied access to basic necessities.”

After touring the Clint facility as well, Trahan wrote a list of the bleak scenes she saw and promised to fix the broken system.

Rep. Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA)

Kennedy tweeted that “trust is broken between the agency and Congress/the public.” He emphasized that Congress would use its oversight power to hold CBP accountable — even if the agency resisted.

He also shared a video of protesters hurling insults at Rep. Rashida Tlaib during the news conference held after the tour. In the video, a particular protester can be heard yelling, “We don’t care about Sharia law. We care about Jesus Christ,” and “Go take care of your country.”

Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX)

In a video he shared on Twitter after leaving Clint, Veasey said he heard stories about people being denied showers and held in the facility much longer than they’re supposed to be.

“I thought it was really terrible what we saw today, and what’s so amazing about that is that it was clear that they tried to do everything they can to make these facilities look as clean and as welcoming and as friendly as possible,” he said. “But we still saw things today that just should not be happening on US soil.”

Later, Veasey tweeted that a lack of resources is not what is causing the poor living conditions within the facilities and vowed to hold CBP accountable through Congress’s oversight responsibilities.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA)

Prior to beginning her tour, Pressley said she was “furious” about what she had learned so far and described the migrants’ detainment as “incarceration.”

“With every little bit we learn by the hour, the more our heart breaks, the more furious I become and the more committed I am to addressing these human rights violations … to getting these children and their families out of incarceration,” she said.

She later retweeted an ABC News Politics video of herself giving an impassioned speech at the news conference after the tour.

“This is about the preservation of our humanity. and this is about seeing every single person there as a member of your own family,” she said. “I am tired of the health and the safety, the humanity and the full freedoms of black and brown children being negotiated and compromised and moderated.”

She later called for a humane and compassionate system that keeps families together.

Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA)

Dean said the issue of poor facility conditions is a human rights issue, not a partisan issue.

Some women, even those who were in their 50s and 60s, were being contained in a crowded cell with no running water, she added.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI)

Tlaib shared emotional encounters she had with several groups of people, including a woman pregnant with her first child.

At the end of her tour, Tlaib shared a statement: “It is my duty as a Congresswoman, and an American, to raise hell until immigrants seeking safety and a better life are treated with dignity, respect, and see their human rights protected.”

Rep. Greg Stanton (D-AZ)

Stanton acknowledged that the situation at the border is “challenging and overwhelming.” Yet he said that American values cannot be compromised and called for a system that is not “morally bankrupt.”

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