CBP Tries to 'Dispel' Reports on Conditions at Migrant Detention Centers by Showing Off Facility 300 Miles Away

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency featured a video on Twitter this week claiming to "dispel some of the misinformation" on conditions migrants held in U.S. detention facilities face by providing a tour of a center located more than 300 miles away from the facilities that have come under national scrutiny in recent weeks.

"Good afternoon," Chief Patrol Agent of the Border Patrol's Tuscon Sector, Roy Villareal, says into the camera at the start of the video. "Today is July 3rd. My goal today is to dispel some of the misinformation that's out there in regards to our detention facilities. So, come with me," he says, before walking to a nearby supply room.

"This is a supply room that is typical in every one of the stations in Tuscon sector," he says. Pointing out supplies around the room, Villareal says: "What we have supplies of are diapers, baby wipes, clothing for children, marked by gender, age. Clothing for men and women. We've got supplies... These are feminine hygiene products that are readily available for any of the detainees."

Here is a look at the inside of a #BorderPatrol processing center with Chief Patrol Agent of #TucsonSector Roy Villareal @CBP pic.twitter.com/vu1dyV72Uz

— CBP Arizona (@CBPArizona) July 4, 2019

"Now, come with me as we go into one of our detention cells. Here in front of me is a supply cart that is available to families and unaccompanied children," he says, stopping at a cart stocked with goods. "Baby formula, crackers, raisins, tuna fish, mylar blankets..."

Picking up a packaged toothbrush, he says: "Here's one of the aspects, there's a lot of misinformation that we are not allowing people to brush their teeth," in a reference to reports sharing the accounts of migrant children and adults detained in Texas facilities, who said they had not been given regular access to toothbrushes or toothpaste.

"This is a toothbrush that is preloaded with toothpaste and it's provided to everyone and readily available should they want more than one," Villareal says. "Now, let's look at the biggest misinformation... Come into the cell with me," he says with a gesture. "Aliens are not forced to drink out of the toilet," the chief patrol agent says, upon entering the cell.

The comment is an apparent reference to the claims of Congress members, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who relayed the account of at least one migrant woman who said she was told by an official to drink out of a toilet bowl when she complained of thirst, again at a facility in Texas.

"Aliens have options. There's fresh water that's provided on a regular basis in a water cooler. There's also water that's provided in, this is a combination toilet and sink and the sink provides fresh water," he says, before filling a paper cup with the water and pointing out the words "agua potable," meaning drinkable water, printed on the wall.

"There's nothing wrong with this water," he says, before taking a sip. "We're not forcing aliens to drink out of the toilet."

Ocasio-Cortez has already addressed assertions from CBP that their toilets "have sinks."

In a statement on Twitter, the New York Congresswoman wrote about how "CBP is trying to refute the toilet drinking story by saying their toilets have sinks."

"The sink in the cell we visited wasn't functional. Guards told these women, Cuban refugees, they could drink out of the bowl," she maintained. "This account has been corroborated by other members of Congress.

Indeed, in recent weeks, accounts from attorneys, lawmakers and journalists detailing the conditions that migrants detained in facilities in Texas have faced have sparked widespread outrage across the country and around the world, with children at facilities in Clint and McAllen, Texas describing being forced to sleep in cold metal cages, sometimes in wet clothing and with little more than a Mylar blanket, as well as being left to take care of one another, while receiving inadequate access to food, water and sanitation.

Meanwhile, Congress members who visited migrant detention centers in Clint and El Paso in recent days described seeing conditions "far worse" than they could ever have imagined.

"[Fifteen] women in their 50s and 60s sleeping in a small concrete cell, no running water. Weeks without showers. All of them separated from their families. This is a human rights crisis," said Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Lori Trahan of Massachusetts described seeing "toddlers quarantined in a 8x10' room sleeping on the floor [with] the flu," a "young girl in a hot warehouse coloring with a chain link fence around her" and "women sobbing in a crowded cell because they were separated from their kids."

"'If you want water, just drink from a toilet.' That's what border patrol told one thirsty woman we met on today's #DemsAtTheBorder trip," added Democratic Rep. Judy Chu of California. "Changes must be made," she added.

Despite a growing body of stories painting a bleak picture of the conditions migrants detained in Texas face, CBP shared Villareal's video of a facility hundreds of miles away to "dispel" the claims made in such accounts.

Meanwhile, lawmakers said CBP personnel had been "resistant" to oversight during their visit, trying to "restrict what we saw, take our phones, block photos and video," according to Democratic Representative Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts. The atmosphere, Kennedy III said, "was contentious and uncooperative."

cbp tour
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency's Arizona team shared a video seeking to 'dispel' claims of poor conditions at migrant detention centers in Texas—but highlighting conditions at a facility in Tuscon, Arizona. CBP