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Tuesday, 23 March 2021

CBP is shamed into releasing its own photos of crowded migrant facilities where children are forced to sleep on the floor in foil blankets after they denied the media access and Texas Democrat shared images showing 'terrible conditions' at the border

 US Customs and Border Protection has been shamed into releasing its own photos from inside crowded migrant facilities after a Texas Democrat leapfrogged the agency and shared images of the 'terrible conditions for children' at the border.

The agency finally released photos Tuesday where children are seen packed inside pens and forced to sleep on the floors in foil blankets as it claimed it wants to 'balance the need for public transparency and accountability' - while still telling 'external visitors' not to visit the facilities to see the conditions for themselves.

The CBP has repeatedly used COVID-19 precautions as an excuse to deny the media all access to its detention centers and the White House has kept the public in the dark for weeks.

First, Biden administration officials toyed with the idea that they would allow media visits but then downgraded this to say they would share some photos with the press, before walking back on granting any insight altogether. 

The Biden administration has continued to push the official line that there is 'no crisis' all the while keeping a tight lid on what is going on inside the facilities. 

Official data shows hundreds of unaccompanied children have been held in CBP detention centers designed for adults for triple the duration legally allowed under US law after thousands upon thousands of migrants have crossed the border from Mexico into the US in recent weeks.   

Around 5,000 unaccompanied minors were held this weekend in CBP detention centers designed for adults as the influx of migrants has meant there is no space to move them to shelters ran by the Department of Health and Human Services's refugee agency.    

A leaked memo sent Monday revealed the agency is now directing the shelters to fast-track the release of children to parents or guardians in the US to free up beds to take more children from the CBP detention centers. 

One image shows children lying packed in like sardines side by side on mattresses on the floors inside a makeshift facility in Donna

One image shows children lying packed in like sardines side by side on mattresses on the floors inside a makeshift facility in Donna

Another image is taken from the outside of a transparent tent looking in on the dozens of people packed inside

Another image is taken from the outside of a transparent tent looking in on the dozens of people packed inside

Migrant children stand in line inside a temporary processing facility in Donna, Texas, to get access to essentials while other children held in cage-like tents look on and wait their turn

Migrant children stand in line inside a temporary processing facility in Donna, Texas, to get access to essentials while other children held in cage-like tents look on and wait their turn 

A children's play area is seen inside the temporary processing facility in Donna. The play area has a handful of toys and appears to be in a storage room or waiting area

A children's play area is seen inside the temporary processing facility in Donna. The play area has a handful of toys and appears to be in a storage room or waiting area 

Video taken inside the facility in El Paso, Texas, shows migrants lying on mattresses on the floor with foil blankets

Video taken inside the facility in El Paso, Texas, shows migrants lying on mattresses on the floor with foil blankets

Inside the Donna facility. The CBP has repeatedly used COVID-19 precautions as an excuse to deny the media all access to its detention centers

Inside the Donna facility. The CBP has repeatedly used COVID-19 precautions as an excuse to deny the media all access to its detention centers


Now, a collection of images has finally been released by the CBP to give a glimpse into what life is like inside the temporary processing facility in Donna, Texas, and the Central Processing Center in El Paso, Texas.

They show children lying packed in like sardines side by side on mattresses on the floors inside a transparent tent facility in the Donna center. The children are wrapped in foil blankets for warmth and are wearing face masks, but there is clearly no room for social distancing in the small confined space.   

Migrant children are also seen standing in line to get access to essential items while other children held in cage-like tents look on and wait their turn.   

Numbered transparent tent-like pens are seen set up on both sides of a room each packed with migrants who are awaiting processing to enter America. 


An image taken from the outside of one of the tent looks in on the dozens of people packed inside with pieces of foil blankets scattered around. 

There is a children's play area set up in what appears to be a storage room or waiting area, with a handful of toys for younger kids. 

The CBP said it was sharing the images in an effort to 'balance the need for public transparency and accountability' in the wake of a backlash.

'CBP continues to transfer unaccompanied minors to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as quickly and efficiently as possible after they are apprehended on the Southwest Border,' it said in a statement Tuesday.  


Migrants stand in line inside a temporary processing facility in Donna as the CBP said it was sharing the images in an effort to 'balance the need for public transparency and accountability'

Migrants stand in line inside a temporary processing facility in Donna as the CBP said it was sharing the images in an effort to 'balance the need for public transparency and accountability'

A migrant is embraced by a child inside the Donna facility. The CBP finally released photos Tuesday after denying media requests for access

A migrant is embraced by a child inside the Donna facility. The CBP finally released photos Tuesday after denying media requests for access 

CBP personnel at work inside the Donna facility. Photos released Tuesday give a glimpse of what life is like inside the temporary processing facility in Donna, Texas, and the Central Processing Center in El Paso, Texas

CBP personnel at work inside the Donna facility. Photos released Tuesday give a glimpse of what life is like inside the temporary processing facility in Donna, Texas, and the Central Processing Center in El Paso, Texas

US Customs and Border Protection has been shamed into releasing its own photos from inside crowded migrant facilities

US Customs and Border Protection has been shamed into releasing its own photos from inside crowded migrant facilities

The agency finally released photos Tuesday as it claimed it wants to 'balance the need for public transparency and accountability'

The agency finally released photos Tuesday as it claimed it wants to 'balance the need for public transparency and accountability'

Yet despite claiming a want to be transparent, the CBP still told 'external visitors' not to visit the facilities to see the conditions for themselves

Yet despite claiming a want to be transparent, the CBP still told 'external visitors' not to visit the facilities to see the conditions for themselves

In the Donna facility, migrants wait to be processed so they can enter the US after crossing the southern border

In the Donna facility, migrants wait to be processed so they can enter the US after crossing the southern border 

The White House has kept the public in the dark for weeks about the conditions inside the overcrowded facilities

The White House has kept the public in the dark for weeks about the conditions inside the overcrowded facilities


'In order to protect the health and safety of our workforce and those in our care we continue to discourage external visitors in our facilities; however, CBP is working to balance the need for public transparency and accountability.' 

This comes one day after Texas Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar shared images from inside the Donna facility taken over the weekend as he said 400 unaccompanied male minors are being held in 'terrible conditions' in a space meant to hold a maximum of 260 people.

Cuellar said he did not take the images but said they offer an insight into the 'terrible conditions for the children' at the border, where he has recently toured a different shelter for children.   

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday Cuellar's images proved  what the Biden administration has said all along – that the border facilities are no place for children.

'These photos show what we've long been saying, which is that these border patrol facilities are not places made for children,' she said in her press briefing on Monday. 

'They are not places that we want children to be staying for an extended period of time. Our alternative is to send children back on this treacherous journey that is not, in our view, the right choice to make.'

Still refusing to call the situation at the US southern border a crisis, Psaki added: 'Children, presenting at our border, who are fleeing violence, who are fleeing prosecution, who are fleeing terrible situations is not a crisis. 

'We feel that it is our responsibility to humanely approach this circumstance, and make sure they are treated and put in conditions that are safe.'  

Psaki also said Monday she didn't know when media would be given access to the border facilities despite repeated requests by reporters to be allowed to visit.  

The Biden administration has so far banned media access to the facilities amid a growing humanitarian and political crisis at the US southern border. Lawyers and lawmakers have been given tours. 

At the Donna facility, agency workers hand out food to migrant children being held there after crossing the border

At the Donna facility, agency workers hand out food to migrant children being held there after crossing the border 

Children line up for food with many young people seen carrying toddlers and younger children

Children line up for food with many young people seen carrying toddlers and younger children 

A child plays in a makeshift play pen inside the Donna facility in Texas where some children have been held for 10 days

A child plays in a makeshift play pen inside the Donna facility in Texas where some children have been held for 10 days 

The CBP finally released images of the temporary processing facilities after being shamed into doing so

The CBP finally released images of the temporary processing facilities after being shamed into doing so 


'We are working to finalize details and I hope to have an update in the coming days,' Psaki said after admitting 'putting in place more effective and efficient processing at the border... is going to take some time'.  

Psaki had previously said there would be organized trips for press to gain access to detention facilities but later walked back on those comments, instead promising photos to show conditions.

Then last Thursday, Psaki said the White House would not be releasing to the media photos that advisors shared with President Biden to brief him on conditions on facilities housing childhood migrants on the border.  

On Monday, Republicans Senator Ted Cruz wrote to Biden after access was refused to both the press and fourteen other senators who visited the border.  

'The American people are beginning to understand the gravity of the situation,' Cruz wrote.

'But it is not enough for members of the Senate to see what is happening — the American people must see. That is why I requested that members of the media be allowed to join us. But your administration clearly and emphatically refused to offer press access.'

'This is outrageous and hypocritical,' said Cruz who accused Psaki of reneging on the administration's vow of 'transparency'.

'Denying the press the ability to observe, film, and report on the conditions at the border is not openness or transparency — it is hiding the truth from the American people,' added Cruz. 'The press and the American people deserve more than denials and excuses from a podium.'  

Psaki said Monday that children at the facilities have been tested for COVID-19 and those who needed to be quarantined were separated out from the rest of the population. 

She didn't have a timeline on when the president might go the border after Biden said on Sunday he would make a trip at some point. 

A total of 823 unaccompanied children were held at US-Mexico border facilities for more than 10 days - more than a fourfold increase over the last week, according to an internal Department of Homeland Security document leaked to Axios Sunday.  

Congressman Henry Cuellar released the images; he confirmed they were taken over this weekend

Congressman Henry Cuellar released the images; he confirmed they were taken over this weekend

The pictures show inside the U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporary overflow facility in Donna

The pictures show inside the U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporary overflow facility in Donna

Rep. Cuellar said they offer an insight into the 'terrible conditions for the children' at the border

Rep. Cuellar said they offer an insight into the 'terrible conditions for the children' at the border

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had said there would be organized trips for press to gain access to detention facilities; later, she walked back on those comments and refused to share images from the facilities

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had said there would be organized trips for press to gain access to detention facilities; later, she walked back on those comments and refused to share images from the facilities

Cuellar said that as of Sunday 400 unaccompanied male minors were being kept in a tent meant to hold 260

Cuellar said that as of Sunday 400 unaccompanied male minors were being kept in a tent meant to hold 260

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the disturbing images of the cramped conditions inside a migrant 'overflow' tent in Texas showed what the Biden administration has said all along – the border facilities are not the place for children

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the disturbing images of the cramped conditions inside a migrant 'overflow' tent in Texas showed what the Biden administration has said all along – the border facilities are not the place for children


Children are not supposed to be held in border patrol custody for more than three days. As of Saturday 2,226 children had been held in custody for more than five days and 823 for more than 10 days.     

The number of unaccompanied migrant kids in US custody surpassed 15,000 as of Saturday as the Biden administration announced that they 'would not expel young, vulnerable children.' 

This is a reverse of Trump administration policy, which was to generally expel all people who tried to illegally cross the border, regardless of age.  

Since Biden's inauguration on January 20, the US has seen a dramatic spike in the number of people encountered by border officials.

There were 18,945 family members and 9,297 unaccompanied children encountered in February - an increase of 168 per cent and 63 per cent, respectively, from the month before, according to the Pew Research Center.  

After taking office, Biden lifted the Remain in Mexico policy, which kept migrants south of the border while waiting for their hearings, effectively allowing migrants who have applied for asylum to cross into the UD and begin their legal proceedings.

He also narrowed the ICE's criteria for arrests and deportations and stopped the building of Trump's border wall.   

These moves have led thousands upon thousands of migrants pouring into America leaving the border's children's centers so full that kids are being forced to spend up to 10 days in cramped detention centers meant for adults and sparking a backlog and logistical nightmare in processing the new entrants. 

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