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House Democrats Visit Texas Detention Centers

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Godfrey: What did the women look like? What state were they in?

Dean: They were teary-eyed, if not actively crying. Many of them had cracked lips from the arid conditions and, I would assume, inadequate water. They had an affect of resignation of sitting on the floor, lying on the floor. One woman wailed, she said: We don’t mind so much being called ‘bitches’ but to be treated as dogs … [Our] food is sometimes spoiled or frozen—it’s not edible. She said, We are treated as animals.

Godfrey: You and several other lawmakers said on social media that the guards had treated you with hostility. What did you mean?

Dean: There was just an immediate resistance, a skepticism about why Congress was here. It was also fueled by the fact that they had a lot of explaining to do with that Facebook group and the grotesque posts, whether about people of Congress or dead children in their custody.

They didn’t want us seeing certain things. I tried to put my camera up outside at the Clint facility. They tried to block my camera.

Godfrey: When you went to the Clint facility, did you interact with the children there?

Dean: We could not open the glass doors [of the cells]. One room had six children of varying heights standing around. We were communicating through the glass. I put up a drawing—I just wrote on a paper: We heart you, we love you. [Dean began to cry.] The guard came up to me and said, What are you doing? I said, I’m just trying to express something to these children.

He said, You shouldn’t be communicating with them, and I showed him what I’d written. He said Oh, okay.

Then one of the kids slipped a note under the door, beautifully printed. It was interpreted for me. The children wrote, “How can we help you?” I did sort of a fake air hug for each of the children. A guard tried to stop me from doing even something as human as that.

There was another room that appeared to be 12-, 13-, 14-year-old boys sleeping in cots. All sleeping, the lights were all on. We asked about the lighting, and [the guards] said, Well, for their safety and ours, we have to keep the lights up.

It was haunting to think, how were these children treated when we weren’t there? The lack of humanity that they wouldn’t want us to talk to the children; they wouldn’t want us to express some human compassion. What must they be like when we’re not there?

Godfrey: What happens now? What are you personally going to do now, and what do you see as Congress’s role here?

Dean: I’m going to Homestead [Florida] today, visiting the Homestead Detention Facility, which, as you know, is a for-profit detention facility. I want to see the conditions there.

I want to shine such a spotlight on the inhumanity of this, whether it’s the children or the adults. [The goal is] that, No. 1, this administration says, We will never do this to children again. The family separation needs to end. These children need to be reunited immediately.

Then I want greater oversight. I want resources to go to these children. I want them to be shown love, compassion, care. They don’t have people there to do any of that. Mostly, I want the children reunited and the people seeking asylum to be processed in a humane, quick fashion.

Imagine. We’re coming up on the Fourth of July, and this is what is going on every single day at our border.

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