The images reveal hundreds of children crowded under emergency blankets, in the jam-packed “cells” divided by transparent plastic curtains hanging from metal frames. Eight such “cells” make a “pod.” The facility, formed of several interconnected massive tents, includes eight “pods” that hold an average of 3,000 souls at any given time, according to Project Veritas, an undercover journalism nonprofit that published the images on March 22. That sums up to 47 souls per cell on average.
Inside the cell, the floor is lined with what seems to be 4-inch thick mattresses, yet some children appear to be sleeping on the floor. There’s hardly any room left to walk in and out through the single glass-pane door per cell.
“They are separated by age or physical size depending on the room,” the source of the images told Veritas. “Fifty were COVID positive in these cells over the last few days. There have been multiple sexual assaults, normal assaults and daily medical emergencies.”
The 185,000-square foot facility was completed about a month ago, while the photos are a few days old, Veritas announced.
Another set of pictures, presenting similar conditions, was published by Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).
The Biden administration has blocked media and NGO access to the facilities, claiming privacy and safety goals, though further denied requests for pictures to show the conditions inside.
The Department of Homeland Security returned to a request for comment by referring to comments by its secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, through a March 21 CNN interview:
“I have said repeatedly from the very outset a Border Patrol station is no place for a child,” Mayorkas announced. “That is why we are working around the clock to move these children out of the Border Patrol facilities into the care and custody of the Department of Health and Human Services that shelters them.”
As of March 14, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents were holding over 13,000 unaccompanied children in custody, according to CBS News. Many were kept longer than the legal limit.
CBP noted a more than 100 percent month-over-month rise in February in border encounters with family units and unaccompanied minors passing the border illegally. Republicans have for weeks been calling a border situation a crisis, while the White House has avoided using the term.
The Biden administration ended the Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP) program, which asked most illegal immigrants to remain in Mexico while their cases were settled. “Catch and release” has taken the place of MPP, and illegal border crossings, including unaccompanied minors, have surged.