On Monday, members of Congress toured U.S. Border Patrol detention facilities in El Paso and Clint, Texas. Rep. Veronica Escobar, of Texas’ 16th Congressional district, was hosting the visit; her district comprises the city of El Paso. At a press conference after the tour, Escobar and other members of Congress spoke over chants and jeers from pro-Trump protestors who also were there.
Escobar told reporters, “The minute that we lose our own humanity, then we’ve gone into a very dark place, and unfortunately our country has gone into a very dark place.”
Escobar says the facilities she toured this time weren’t as bad as what she’s seen in the past. She says there were a lot of empty cells and few people.
“Normally, we see severe overcrowding and just real inhumanity that is hard to see,” she says. “
It’s unclear why the facilities weren’t crowded given recent reports.
“We know that the numbers are down, we know that there are fewer apprehensions, I just don’t know why,” Escobar says.
Escobar says she’s grateful that some of her colleagues in Congress came down to the border to see the situation firsthand.
The visit came shortly after news broke about a private Border Patrol Facebook group that included derogatory comments about migrants. As a result, Escobar says, the mood was tense.
“There were just a couple of moments where I felt that the chief was not understanding the gravity of the situation, or the profound mistrust that now exists as a result of that group,” Escobar says.
She says that group doesn’t represent the feelings of all Border Patrol agents. “There are a lot of good people inside the system,” she says. But some of the derogatory comments in the group were about her. Escobar says that didn’t surprise her.
“I am, unfortunately, the recipient of a lot of social media hate,” Escobar says. “I couldn’t care less, honestly, what some people think about me, but I absolutely care very deeply and very urgently about the way people in power care about migrants.”
She says the comments in the Facebook group dehumanized migrants, and that those responsible for them need to be “rooted out” of the system and fired.
“They should absolutely not have any access to a gun or a badge,” Escobar says.
The group of pro-Trump protesters that gathered during the press conference was the first she’s seen in the 10 congressional delegation visits she’s hosted in El Paso so far.
“We have always had our press conferences right outside the facility. We’ve never had any problems,” Escobar says. “There’s always been one or two hecklers, but never – this was a group of maybe a dozen.”
And she says the most troubling aspect was their sexist, racist remarks. She views the Border Patrol facility visits as part of fulfilling her oath as a member of Congress, but she says the protesters likely didn’t see it that way.
“It is shocking that our country has come to such a low point that that compassion makes people angry,” Escobar says.
Written by Caroline Covington.