EL PASO, Texas – Overcrowding in migrant processing centers was found during a surprise visit to an El Paso border facility by Homeland Security Officials.
They found one cell with 900 migrants in a space meant for 125.
Local 23 news reporter Susy Castillo spoke with a former Border Sector Chief about the dangers of these conditions.
“First of all, it didn’t surprise me at all because the flows have been incredibly heavy with people coming across.” Said Victor M. Manjarrez Jr. a Former El Paso Border Sector Chief.
The Department of Homeland Security is calling the conditions “dangerous overcrowding” and “unsanitary.” Manjarrez says Agents he’s spoken to are overwhelmed, anxious to leave the job but still be eligible to retire.
“Many of them are looking for positions outside of CBP to finish off their career in something that is not this dynamic.”
According to an Inspector General report, not yet released, DHS found standing room only conditions at the processing center at the Paso Del Norte Bridge in downtown El Paso. Manjarrez says with so many people it’s hard to separate families.
“You don’t want children mixed with single male adults. I doubt that was happening but with close proximity, it makes it where it’s not as private as it should be.”
One cell with a maximum capacity of 12 held 76 people, another designed to hold 8 was holding 41. Inspectors observed detainees standing on toilets so they could breathe and to make space for others.
According to the source with knowledge of the facility, the Border Patrol Station at Ysleta has been over capacity for more than six months. They say max capacity is 33 and right now they are at 370. Migrants have no space to sleep. The source says people are easily in custody for over 30 days without a shower since they don’t have showers at the station, and agents get sick on a regular basis.
“Rest assured nothing good will come of this health wise. There are just too many people in a confined space.”
Manjarrez says most agents remove their clothes before entering their own home for fear of bringing an illness to their families.
The report also states detainees were wearing soiled clothing for days or weeks.