Vice President Mike Pence toured two detention facilities on the U.S. southern border Friday in an effort to respond to claims that President Donald Trump’s administration is providing inadequate care for migrants. Senate Democrats turned down Pence’s invitation to visit the facilities with him, viewing the trip as a political maneuver.
Pence first stopped at a detention center in Donna, Texas, where detainees slept on mats under mylar blankets. Many belonged to families who were set to be released within 72 hours. While some critics have compared the detention centers to concentration camps, Pence said, “What we saw today was a facility that is providing care that every American would be proud of.”
His second stop, however, at the Border Patrol Station in McAllen, Texas, revealed a facility that was much more crowded, without enough room for all the men to lie down. Some of the men said they were hungry and wanted to brush their teeth. Michael Banks, the agent in charge of the station, said the men could brush their teeth once a day and were given deodorant after showering, though some had not showered for 10 or 20 days. He also said the men ate meals from local restaurants and that the space had air conditioning and was cleaned three times a day.
Pence told CNN that the conditions at the second facility were not acceptable, and that is why the administration pushed for the $4.6 billion funding package for Customs and Border Protection that Congress passed recently. “The McAllen station, where our cells are overflowing … ought to be a very clear message to every American that the time for action is now and the time for Congress to act to end the flow of families that are coming north from Central America to our border is now,” he said.
The Trump administration has faced criticism in recent weeks over the conditions of a Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas, after a group of lawyers from Human Rights Watch reported children living there in poor living conditions. The White House has pushed for more funding to deal with the high level of apprehensions, which in June decreased for the first time since the beginning of the year, according to preliminary data from Customs and Border Protection. May saw the most apprehensions in more than a decade at 132,880, but the number dropped by 28 percent the following month to about 95,000. —Rachel Lynn Aldrich
SunTrust Bank announced last week it would join several other major financial institutions in refusing to lend money to private prison corporations. Long a pariah of prison reform activists, corporations such as Core Civic and GEO Group are drawing new criticism for operating migrant detention centers. Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo also cut ties with the prison companies earlier this year. —Lynde Langdon