Mass. senator visits migrant detention facilities in Brownsville, Weslaco

By Nubia Reyna | Staff Writer

BROWNSVILLE — Amid the humanitarian crisis at the border, Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey visited two Customs and Border Protection detention facilities Friday in Brownsville and Weslaco.

“What I saw is overcrowding. I see a facility that is, right now, accommodating twice as many people as it’s built to be able to process and treat humanely,” Markey said at a press conference after the visits. “I see a policy of Donald Trump which is deliberately creating a crisis that is impacting families which are looking for justice, looking for the humanity of the U.S., looking to protect their own families from violence at their home countries.

“Instead, when they arrive here they are in a situation that it is less a processing center for people that are looking for asylum, and more like a jail that makes it impossible for them to really have the kind of hope that our country should be giving them. That we will hear their cases (and) that we will guarantee that they’re given their due process, which our constitution insists that they receive.”

In early June, inspectors with the Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog visited five facilities where migrants are detained in the Rio Grande Valley, including the Brownsville Fort Brown and the Weslaco Border Patrol Station Markey visited. June’s visits culminated in a 13-page report containing images of migrants packed into holding cells that quickly made their way around the world.

Immigration attorneys began raising the same concerns about dangerous overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in federal lawsuits. They say petitioners are being subjected to inhumane treatment by being packed into overcrowded cells and detained for weeks without adequate food, water sanitation facilities or access to legal counsel.

“This morning I saw children in a facility where there is no toothpaste, there are no toothbrushes and they are being detained there without the help and resources that they need,” Markey said. “We see people who have been detained two weeks, three weeks, longer without any knowledge of when they may be released into a situation that gives them the protection of our country so that we can hear their case.”

Markey said Trump is criminalizing Latinos and instead of “Making America Great Again” he is “Making America Hate Again.” He said the ICE raids that are scheduled to take place this weekend at 10 big cities, including Los Angeles, Houston and New York, are completely wrong because the system is already overloaded.

“Everything that Donald Trump is doing has to be turned upside down so we are, as a country, acting humanely, acting the way the rest of the world and especially Latin America expect us to act toward those who are fleeing hunger, poverty, injustice and violence,” Markey said. “The mission, which ICE is going to be on over this weekend, is one that is only going to further worsen the conditions of all of those people who have committed no crimes but are just looking for the U.S. to help them. We need to treat these border crossings as a civil offense, not a criminal offense, we need a comprehensive immigration bill and we need a much better partnership with Mexico.”

After his visit in Brownsville, Markey crossed the border with Mexico and visited migrant facilities at Matamoros. He said the solution to the humanitarian crisis at the border is to have better policies that treat migrants in humane ways. He also said detention facilities should be centers where people go and within 72 hours they are released into a better, more humane setting.

“Donald Trump is using ICE as a political weapon to try to further demonize the Latino community,” Markey said. “The United States is the wealthiest country in the history of the world; we can afford to act in a humane way.”

nreyna@brownsvilleherald.com