Texas, in some ways, is a place between two nations. During complicated political moments, many come here first to find safety from an economic crisis or an armed conflict. But the way the U.S. treats those people isn’t a constant. In addition to laws, our country’s political climate can influence the migrant experience.
For a month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, has detained a group of migrant men outside, under a bridge in El Paso. There, temperatures can soar into the triple digits. One eyewitness called the place “a human dog pound.”
Bob Moore of Texas Monthly reported on the story, and says government professor Neal Rosendorf of New Mexico State University alerted him about the bridge detention center.
“They were detaining large groups of people for extended periods of time outdoors as temperatures were soaring in El Paso,” Moore says.
Rosendorf used the term “human dog pound” when he described the scene to Moore, because the group of at least 150 adult men are housed behind cage-like fencing.
“To get out of the sun, a lot of them were sort of squatted down toward the ground with covering sort of jury-rigged above their heads,” Moore says.
Rosendorf told Moore that the men in detention said they weren’t allowed to shower over the month they’d been detained, and were wearing the same clothes the whole time. What’s more, summer in El Paso, which is in the Chihuahan Desert, is hot: right now, the men are experiencing 90 to 100-degree temperatures.
CBP had told the public that it wasn’t housing migrants outdoors anymore after it was criticized for doing so in March. But it started doing it again not long after.
“In probably late April, or early May, they, once again, began detaining people outdoors without telling anyone,” Moore says. “I suspect that had it not been for Dr. Rosendorf’s bizarre discovery, the public may not have been known about it.”
For its part, CBP eventually confirmed, with Moore that it is holding people outdoors. Its reasoning is that detention facilities are over capacity, so it has had to find other places to keep people. But Moore also says CBP is not usually tasked with detaining people long term; only recently has it started to do so as a result of the large number of migrants crossing the southern border.
“Their own guidelines say they shouldn’t hold people for more than three days because they don’t have facilities for extended holding,” Moore says.
The U.S. Constitution affords rights to people in immigration custody. And federal law says migrants shouldn’t be detained for more than 72 hours. But those laws aren’t always followed.
“Clearly, CBP is violating, repeatedly, its own standards right now,” Moore says.
Written by Caroline Covington.