Government Watchdog Finds ‘Dangerous Overcrowding’ at US Border Facility

Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

The internal watchdog for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has urged officials to take immediate steps to alleviate “dangerous overcrowding” after it found some adult detainees being held in “standing-room-only conditions” for days or weeks at a border patrol facility in Texas.

U.S. officials say they have been overwhelmed by tens of thousands of mostly Central Americans crossing into the United States and turning themselves over to border agents. President Donald Trump has threatened Mexico with tariffs to do more to stop the flow.

The El Paso Del Norte Border Patrol processing facility in southern Texas, which has a maximum capacity of 125 detainees, was holding 900 people on site on May 8, the watchdog found in a report dated May 30.

The report included eyewitness accounts of families left outside in a parking lot. Staff members told the watchdog that as of May 11 they were no longer holding families in the parking lot.

Single adults were held in cells designed for one-fifth as many detainees as were housed there and were wearing soiled clothing for days or weeks with limited access to showers, the report said. Pictures published with the report show women packed tightly together in a holding cell.

“We also observed detainees standing on toilets in the cells to make room and gain breathing space, thus limiting access to toilets,” the watchdog wrote.

The majority of detainees were being held longer than the 72 hours permitted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) policy. On May 7, 66% of detainees had been held for longer than 72 hours, and 4% had been held for more than two weeks.

Reuters photos taken earlier in May showed similar conditions at another border patrol facility in McAllen, Texas, with adults and children sleeping on the ground outside and rigging makeshift shelters out of reflective blankets.

In their official response to the report, DHS – which oversees Border Patrol and CBP – said the current situation on the U.S.-Mexico border “represents an acute and worsening crisis” because of the sheer numbers of arriving migrants, many seeking to claim asylum in the United States.

Apprehensions of migrants on the southwest border hit another record high last month with 98,977 people arrested. On Wednesday, U.S. border agents apprehended a group of 1,036 migrants as they illegally crossed the border from Mexico, the largest group arrested in this fiscal year, which began in October.

At the beginning of May, CBP put up a tent in El Paso with the capacity to hold 500 people and plans to open another facility capable of detaining 800 more people by July 2019, DHS said in its response. In 18 months, a permanent Centralized Processing Center (CPC) in El Paso is expected to be completed with the capacity to hold around 1,800 migrants.

The current border system was originally designed to process large numbers of single adult men – mainly from Mexico – not families with young children coming from farther away.

Because of lack of detention capacity, most family units are being immediately released while many adults traveling alone are sent to detention when there is space.

Border Patrol managers said they call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) daily to request detention space for single adults but ICE officials often say they cannot take detainees, the report said. ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

The space problems have been exacerbated when detainees with infectious diseases, like chicken pox, scabies, and influenza, need to be separated from the general population, according to the report. Disease outbreaks have also been a concern when adult migrants are transferred to ICE detention.

Legal advocacy groups sued immigration officials on Thursday claiming asylum seekers in ICE detention facilities in several southern states were being held for long periods without parole.

(Reporting by Kristina Cooke and Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Tom Brown)

What do you think?

6 pledges
Upvote Downvote
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Eric Strickland
Eric Strickland

It is my understanding that the “immigrants” can return home anytime they want so staying in an over crowded facility is by choice.


So, what else is new? This has been going on for months, if not years, and it’s spread to other nations and is NOT as a result of harsh and dangerous governments or regimes. Everyone wants freebies. The Democrats will accommodate them because they want votes. Everyone wins, except the American people, our schools, our resources, and our future. Even those who have jobs are sending their paychecks back to their countries. A NO-WIN situation that reached the boiling point months ago. Whatever happened to “…we’re closing the border…” ????

Helen Etling

Some say we can accommodate all these people because the country has a lot of room. We might have room but the increased population is causing increased use of our natural recourses. The rivers out West are running dry. Where are the organizations who proport to protect our recourses? The homeless populations are running beautiful cities. Where are their Congressional representatives to protect the citizens in their districts? The whole situation is disgusting. I feel for the people wanting a better life but they are only bringing us to being a third world country.

Dave Scott

Arrest Soros and freeze all his assets so he can no longer fund all these caravans of illegals.

Southern Sis
Southern Sis

Shut down all borders until what we have assimilate…if they do not ….DEPORT THEM

Ron Pauly

The ones that we catch. Take their fingerprints and photo and take them right back across the border. Maybe shut down the border with Mexico until Mexico starts doing something. What is happening is crazy. Get rid of the anchor baby thing, we are about the only country that does this.

Ronald Nelson
Ronald Nelson

No problem… thow the back… catch and release only release them on the opposite side of our border fence. If not that then put them up in TENT CITIES… with the same accomodations our military has to endure when there is no other housing.

Gabrielle Haynes
Gabrielle Haynes

How about Congress get off their dead carcasses and change our immigration laws??? And how about NOT spending all your time investigating Trump and start supporting him? He has great, effective ideas on this situation but Congress, instead of thinking of the people affected by these policies(including the taxpayers) continues to play politics!

Trump Urges Israel to ‘Get Their Act Together’ Amid Election Turmoil

Chris Wallace Stops Gillibrand in Her Tracks When She Starts Bashing Fox News During Town Hall With Network