Border chief: Reporting on the suffering at detention camps is 'demoralizing' for my staff


Reports of women being told to drink from toilets are apparently hurting the feelings of Trump's border officials.

First-hand accounts of the wretched conditions of border facilities caused the acting customs and border protection chief to melt down during a Tuesday Senate hearing.

"The men and women of CBP [Customs and Border Protection] are not running concentration camps," Mark Morgan, the acting chief of the agency, insisted during a hearing with the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

CBP officials are not "making those in our custody drink from toilets, nor denying them access to toothbrushes," Morgan said. "That is simply not true."

In his testimony, Morgan questioned the veracity of first-hand accounts of conditions at some facilities, essentially accusing several members of Congress of lying.

During a visit to border facilities in early July, Reps. Judy Chu (D-CA) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) spoke about women saying they were told by border agents to drink out of a toilet if they were thirsty.

"The conditions are far worse than we ever could have imagined," Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) wrote after visiting one facility. "15 women in their 50s- 60s sleeping in a small concrete cell, no running water. Weeks without showers. All of them separated from their families."

But rather than focus on the people in detention living in horrible conditions, Morgan insisted that reports of overcrowded and unsanitary conditions at border facilities are a problem for the real victims in this situation — Morgan and his staff.

The reports "are demoralizing" for CBP staff and "deteriorate the public's understanding and perception" of the situation at the border, Morgan claimed.

In some border facilities, children draw pictures of themselves in cages. One child complained of being hungry "all the time." A medical doctor compared detention camps holding children to "torture facilities."

In April, Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-CA) described visiting a tent city near the El Paso, Texas, border crossing and feeling ill because of the stench. "I was really taken aback by the smell. I was in there for five minutes and I just became nauseous, I hate to say it," Barragan said at the time.

Even inspectors with the Department of Homeland Security blasted the Trump administration for dangerous, overcrowded conditions. They reported that one official said the situation was so bad it was a "ticking time bomb."

Yet Trump officials like Morgan continually downplay the conditions of the facilities. Trump's pick to take over ICE, Matt Albence, once described facilities holding children to "summer camps."

In March, then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended locking children in cages because they were larger than cages used to hold dogs.

And now, Morgan is claiming members of Congress are lying about what they saw, and he desperately wants the media to stop reporting on the conditions of border facilities. Because those reports apparently hurt his feelings.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.