Protesters in Austin urge Trump Administration to close detention facilities

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Protesters in Austin joined a national day of action to demand the closure of immigrant detention facilities.  

The “Close The Camps” rally was organized by the group Move On, a progressive public policy group, and members of University Democrats. Immigration experts, local leaders and some candidates running for office criticized the conditions of the detention facilities. Protestors gathered at Republic Square Park and also went to congressional district offices. 

“We don’t need walls,” Julie Oliver, a candidate for Texas’ 25th Congressional District, said. “We don’t need fear. We need an immigration policy that reflects our values – that reflects the values of freedom and hope and opportunity, not criminalizing somebody who is trying to make a change in their life and a change that represents life for them and their children.” 

In response to the protest, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, pointed to his bipartisan border solution. 

“The HUMANE Act would require the Department of Homeland Security to keep families together throughout court proceedings and would provide additional standards of care for families in custody,” his statement said. “In addition to suitable living accommodations, each facility would be required to provide timely access to medical assistance, recreational activities, educational services and legal counsel.” 

On Tuesday, Acting Inspector General with the Department of Homeland Security Jennifer L. Costello sent a letter to Kevin K. McAleenan, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to “encourage the Department of Homeland Security to take immediate steps to alleviate dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults in the Rio Grande Valley.” 

The attached report addresses overcrowding at four of the five Border Patrol facilities and prolonged detention at all five facilities the Office of the Inspector General visited in the Rio Grande Valley. It states that several of the facilities failed to meet the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention and Search. 

Overcrowding of families observed by OIG on June 10, 2019, at Border Patrol’s McAllen, TX, Station. (Source: Office of the Inspector General – Dept. of Homeland Security)

“For example, children at three of the five Border Patrol facilities we visited had no access to showers, despite the TEDS standards requiring that ‘reasonable efforts’ be made to provide showers to children approaching 48 hours in detention,” the report states. “At these facilities, children had limited access to a change of clothes; Border Patrol had few spare clothes and no laundry facilities. While all facilities had infant formula, diapers, baby wipes and juice and snacks for children, we observed that two facilities had not provided children access to hot meals – as is required by the TEDS standards – until the week we arrived.” 

Overcrowding of families observed by OIG on June 11, 2019, at Border Patrol’s McAllen, TX, Centralized Processing Center. (Source: Office of the Inspector General – Dept. of Homeland Security)

DHS’ management sent comments on the draft report prior to its release and said the agency “has taken steps to ensure an elevated standard of care in response to the current humanitarian crisis and has directed additional personnel and resources to the border.” It cites that CBP has obligated over $49 million for medical services for people in custody and Border Patrol agents are taking around 77 people, on average, to the hospital every day.  

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