News Roundup: Contradicting Own Watchdog, Homeland Security Chief Defends Detention Conditions

Our daily look at headlines from around the state.

By Becky FogelJuly 8, 2019 11:59 am

The acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security is defending conditions at detention facilities after reports of crowded and unsanitary conditions at sites in Texas.

Secretary Kevin McAleenan specifically addressed concerns about a Border Patrol station in Clint, near El Paso, Texas, that’s been the subject of much reporting. A team of lawyers recently said children were being held in squalid conditions without much supervision or adequate access to food and water.

McAleenan denied those allegations outright on ABC’s “This Week” and said reports by the New York Times, the El Paso Times and the Associated Press were unsubstantiated.

“What I can tell you right now is that there’s adequate food, water, and the reason the children were at Clint station in the first place, is so they could have medical [treatment] consolidated. They had shower facilities for over a year, there’s been showers there.”

Despite those comments, a recent report from the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security found dangerous overcrowding at five Border Patrol facilities in the Rio Grande Valley. The government watchdog found children at three of those five facilities had no access to showers and limited access to a change of clothes.

Artists from around the country gathered in El Paso Friday night for what they called an “artistic uprising” at the U.S.-Mexico border, Mallory Falk reports.  With an international bridge as their backdrop, they sang, played music, and recited poetry expressing love for migrants and denouncing family separation and child detention.

The setting was dramatic. Just beyond the stage ­– a small, raised platform – stood the El Paso Del Norte Processing Center. In May, a report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General warned of dangerous overcrowding at the facility. At one point, 900 migrants were held in a space designed for 125.

When organizer Lorena Andrade took the stage to kick off the event, she gestured to the processing center. “This is where our people are held,” she said. “This is where this whole, horrible process begins. And we are here to be loud with our poems, with our songs, with our danza, with our drums. With everything that is in us, we are going to demand of these people that they let our people go.”

Andrade directs La Mujer Obrera, a women’s community organizing group in El Paso. She put on the event with the playwright Eve Ensler, who founded the international anti-violence campaign One Billion Rising. Border Agricultural Workers Project and Alianza Nacional de Campesinas also helped out.

“I think many people in this country need to express what they’re feeling about what we’re witnessing on our borders and in detention centers,” Ensler said. She put out a call to artists all over the country: “Let’s join forces and rise up and say not in our name. Not in our conscience. Not in our witness. We do not accept.”

A Texas Republican says the Trump Administration’s ongoing push to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census should not hold up preparations for the national head count.

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd represents the state’s 23rd Congressional District, stretching from San Antonio to El Paso. Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, he said “the [U.S.] Supreme Court has ruled let’s move forward. We shouldn’t stall the census, and we need to make sure the information we’re collecting is protected.”

The Supreme Court ruled last month to keep the citizenship question off the upcoming census for now.

The Governor’s mansion was lit blue Sunday night in recognition of Fallen Law Enforcement Officer Day in Texas.

The state legislature created the July 7 holiday in 2017, following the deadly attack on police officers in Dallas the year before. Fix officers were killed by a gunman during the ambush in that city’s downtown.