"The Stench Was Horrendous": Pence Visited A Border Patrol Station Packed With Hundreds Of Immigrants In Cages

White House Press Pool / Josh Dawsey

Vice President Mike Pence visited an over-crowded and foul-smelling border facility in south Texas on Friday packed with nearly 400 immigrant men held in sweltering cages without mats or pillows where some said they had been detained for more than 40 days.

The men, held in “sweltering hot” conditions at the McAllen Border Patrol station, told reporters they were hungry and wanted to brush their teeth, according to the White House press pool which visited the facility with the vice president. The smell in the area was described as “horrendous” and some of the border officers guarding the cages were seen wearing face masks.

The temperature in McAllen, Texas, soared to 99 degrees on Friday, with a heat index above 110 degrees.

Pence also visited a tent-like temporary detention facility in Donna, Texas, that holds unaccompanied children and immigrant families. The new and mostly clean facility stood in stark contrast to the McAllen station Pence later visited.

Veronica Cardenas / Reuters

Vice President Mike Pence tours the Donna Soft-Sided Processing Facility in Donna, Texas.

One man near the front of the fence told reporters repeatedly, “Cuarenta dias, cuarenta dias” or “40 days” in Spanish. He held his hands in front of him putting four fingers up in one hand and making a zero with the other to make sure his message got across.

“No shower, no shower,” someone else could be heard shouting.

Yet another could be heard saying, “No agua,” or “No water” in Spanish.

The cages were so crowded that it was not possible for all the men to lie down at the same time, the pool reporter said. “There were no mats of pillows — some of the men were sleeping on concrete,” he said.

@MSNBC BREAKING: New video shows shows severe overcrowding of men in cages at Texas detainment facility during VP Pence’s visit Friday.

In a statement after the visit, the vice president’s office said it had specifically instructed Customs and Border Protection to not clean up or sanitize the facility beyond what is routine. “So the American people could see how serious the crisis at our border is (overcrowding, lack of resources, beds),” it said.

At a press conference, Pence called for additional beds in Immigration and Customs Enforcement jails and said the situation was the reason he had called for more funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

“I was not surprised by what I saw,” Pence said at the news conference. “I knew we’d see a system that was overwhelmed.”

White House Press Pool / Josh Dawsey

Border authorities said water was available outside the caged area at the station, adding that the men could leave and get water when the press wasn’t there. Reporters were pulled out of the area within 90 seconds, the press pool said.

Michael Banks, the agent in charge of the McAllen station, said the men were allowed to brush their teeth once a day and said the longest any man had been held there was 32 days.

Many of the men had not showered for 10 or 20 days, Banks said.

The men detained at the McAllen station were given three hot meals a day from local restaurants, along with juice and crackers, Banks said. But the men were not given cots because there was not enough room for them to sleep inside the fenced area.


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