Washington, June 1: Calling for an immediate action, Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General has reported 'dangerous overcrowding' and 'unsanitary conditions' at an El Paso, Texas, Border Patrol processing facility following an unannounced inspection.
According to a report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Homeland Security, 'a border processing facility in Texas is dangerously overcrowded, with 900 people packed in a cell having a maximum capacity of 125 migrants.'
The officials saw one cell with a maximum capacity of 12 that was holding 76 detainees, and another with a maximum capacity of 8 that held 41 detainees. Yet another cell with a maximum capacity of 35 contained 155 detainees. Some of the detainees had been held in standing-room-only conditions for days or weeks.
The centres clearly do not have the capacity to hold the hundreds currently in custody safely, and has held the majority of its detainees longer than the 72 hours generally permitted under the TEDS (US Customs and Border Patrol's Transport, Escort, Detention and Search) standards. The overcrowding presents a danger to both the migrants, as well as DHS employees, the report said.
'Border Patrol management on site said there is a high incidence of illness among their staff. Border Patrol management at PDT and other sites also raised concerns about employee morale and that conditions were elevating anxiety and affecting,' the report said. And it also raised the concern that the cramped conditions could cause 'rising tensions among detainees [that] could turn violent.'
DHS responded to the recommendation to alleviate overcrowding in the center, saying that CBP "will construct an additional tent by July 31, 2019, and will open a Centralized Processing Center within 18 months." However, the OIG found this response to be insufficient.