DHS watchdog details squalid conditions at migrant detention centers

By Camilo Montoya-Galvez

/ CBS News

Lawmakers call border facilities "horrifying"

The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) internal watchdog found squalid conditions in several detention centers for migrant families and children in Texas, including "serious" overcrowding, minors going without hot meals for days and detainees begging not to be returned to their cells, according to a new report released Tuesday.

The DHS Office of Inspector General publicly released the surprising revelations — along with photos documenting the overcrowding in detention cells — on Tuesday after it conducted inspections of five Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities in south Texas in June.

"We are concerned that overcrowding and prolonged detention represent an immediate risk to the health and safety of DHS agents and officers, and to those detained," the report said.

Immigration More

More in Immigration

Overcrowding was rampant in the facilities in the Rio Grande Valley. More than 50 women were crammed in one cell designed to hold 40 male juveniles when investigators visited in June. In another one, designated for 41 detainees, 71 men were packed inside, with some of them signaling their prolonged detention to the inspectors.

On the left, 51 adult women seen held in a cell meant to hold 40 juvenile males at the Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, on June 12, 2019. On the right, 71 men are held in a cell meant to hold 41 women. Department of Homeland Security Inspector General

Along with mass overcrowding in detention cells for children, adults and families, the agency said it found that detainees were held in CBP custody for a "prolonged" periods of time. In all of the inspected facilities, more than 2,500 unaccompanied children had been held for more than three days, a violation of the Flores court settlement that governs the care of minors in U.S. custody. About 50 children under the age of 7 had been in custody for over two weeks, the report said.

According to the inspector general, three of the five facilities were not providing detained children access to showers or clean clothes. In two facilities, minors had not been given a hot meal until the inspectors arrived.

screen-shot-2019-07-02-at-1-38-37-pm.png
Families held at an overcrowded Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, on June 10, 2019. Department of Homeland Security Inspector General

The report also detailed living conditions for detained single adults and families that were so grim that detainees made every effort to not be in their cells. Migrants reported getting constipated because of a strict bologna sandwich diet. Most had not showered while in CBP custody and were instead given cleaning wipes for personal hygiene.

In one CBP facility, migrants who had been removed from their cells while the rooms were being cleaned refused to go back. The desperation got to the point that Border Patrol officers dispatched a special operations unit to demonstrate they were "prepared to use force if necessary." Some migrants purposely clogged toilets with socks so that they would be released from their cells. The inspector general also noted some migrants attempted to escape during maintenance in the facility.

Raising safety concerns about migrants and officers, one senior CBP manager interviewed by inspectors called the situation "a ticking time bomb."

screen-shot-2019-07-02-at-1-39-20-pm.png
Eighty-eight men in a cell meant to hold 41 people at the Border Patrol's Fort Brown station in Texas on June 12, 2019. The OIG said some signalled "prolonged detention to OIG staff." Department of Homeland Security Inspector General

CBP oversees short-term detention for all categories of detained migrants, from single adults to children. Minors in particular are supposed to be transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) within 72 hours of their apprehension by Border Patrol officers.

The inspector general said migrant families — who are not supposed to be detained by the government for more than 20 days — and single adults should be transferred to facilities operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), another DHS branch which oversees long-term detention.

But the watchdog noted that both ICE and HHS have warned about dwindling bed space and resources in recent months, when the U.S. faced an unprecedented surge of Central American families and unaccompanied children heading towards the U.S.-Mexico border. Administration officials are expecting border apprehensions — which hit a 13-year high in May — to decline significantly in June.

screen-shot-2019-07-02-at-1-38-46-pm.png
Migrant families held at an overcrowded Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, on June 11, 2019. Department of Homeland Security Inspector General

Although the administration is likely to tout the Mexican government's efforts to bolster security along its northern border and the one with Guatemala, apprehension numbers in recent years have typically gone down in the summer months, mainly because of the sweltering heat in Central America and Mexico.

The inspector general noted that DHS leadership responded to the report by calling the situation at the southern border "an acute and worsening crisis" and citing new measures CBP has taken to remedy some of the problems. But the watchdog said it was nevertheless worried about the response on the ground.

"We recognize the extraordinary challenges CBP faces, and welcome the information that DHS has been able to reduce the number of UACs in custody. However, we remain concerned that DHS is not taking sufficient measures to address prolonged detention in CBP custody among single adults," the report said.

First published on July 2, 2019 / 3:42 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

screen-shot-2019-07-02-at-1-39-11-pm.png screen-shot-2019-07-02-at-1-38-37-pm.png screen-shot-2019-07-02-at-1-39-20-pm.png screen-shot-2019-07-02-at-1-38-46-pm.png

"Straight Pride Parade" organizers get letters with glitter. And a bomb squad responded

One of the parade organizers said the letters were "terrorism"

2M ago

Gov't report reveals squalid conditions at migrant detention centers

"We are concerned that overcrowding and prolonged detention represent an immediate risk," the report says

7M ago

DOJ pushes to close loophole for knock-off fentanyl

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is about 100 times stronger than morphine, and its analogues can be even more potent

1H ago

What's behind the growing trend of booze-free events?

According to the CDC, alcohol is estimated to be responsible for about 88,000 deaths per year – more than overdoses from all other drugs combined

1H ago

How student journalists discovered a school district used prison labor

18-year-old Spencer Cliche wrote an article for "The Graphic" that documented a prison labor program

1H ago

Gov't report reveals squalid conditions at migrant detention centers

"We are concerned that overcrowding and prolonged detention represent an immediate risk," the report says

7M ago

DOJ pushes to close loophole for knock-off fentanyl

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is about 100 times stronger than morphine, and its analogues can be even more potent

1H ago

Tanks, flyovers, fireworks: Trump's July 4th extravaganza

The president has vowed to throw a "Salute to America" that will be, in his words, "like no other"

1H ago

How to watch the 4th of July "Salute to America"

According to the president, 4th of July celebrations will include military flyovers and the "biggest ever fireworks"

2H ago

House Democrats sue Trump administration over tax returns

The Trump administration has resisted handing over the records to the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee

3H ago

U.S. threatens tariffs on European cheese, coffee and whiskey over Airbus-Boeing case

The Trump administration is threatening new tariffs over what it says are illegal subsidiaries to Europe's Airbus

2H ago

Alleged mastermind in David Ortiz shooting speaks out in video

Víctor Hugo Gómez Vasquez made his case in a cellphone video before he was arrested in the David Ortiz shooting

updated 53M ago

Women's World Cup: USA vs. England – live updates

The winner goes on to compete in the championship match on Sunday

updated 3M ago

Solar eclipse boom-time for small cities in the sweet spot

One Chilean city of 200,000 sees more than 300,000 visitors flood in to see the moon completely hide the sun for just a few fleeting minutes

1H ago

U.S. says accused American spy's health deteriorating in Russia jail

Paul Whelan has been jailed since December on espionage charges in what he calls a case of "political kidnap"

5H ago

Blind Dance Company brings talent into the light

One dancer credits the company with "helping me with evolving my stage swag, presence and confidence"

2H ago

Five actors reportedly in the running to play Elvis

Who do you think is best to play the King of Rock and Roll?

2H ago

New on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon

Shows and movies you'll want to stream soon

Jun 24 33 photos

Critic Emily Nussbaum on "I Like To Watch"

The New Yorker's Pulitzer Prize-winning culture critic Emily Nussbaum joins "CBS This Morning" co-host Tony Dokoupil to discuss her new book "I Like To Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution."

3H ago 15:07

"Kimono" a no-go for Kim Kardashian West's underwear line

Pop culture icon changing name of latest fashion line after being accused of cultural appropriation, but Japan still isn't happy

8H ago

Georgia court system struck by ransomware attack

The online extortion follows a similar pattern seen this year in two Florida municipalities

6H ago

NASA launches capsule to test abort system for moonship

The launch abort system would pull a moon-bound crew to safety in a booster failure

7H ago

Toddler buys $400 couch on Amazon unbeknownst to mom

Amazon "1-click" ordering makes it a little too easy to buy stuff via cellphone, a San Diego mother learns the hard way

Jul 1

Facebook will ban posts that lie about 2020 Census

The social network said it's working to prevent a repeat of the chaos of the 2016 election cycle

Jul 1

Lawsuits liken employer background checks to snooping

Companies from Amazon to Uber are accused in lawsuits of improperly conducting background checks on job applicants

Jun 28

Cockroaches are becoming nearly impossible to kill

Three store-bought insecticides were tested – and not even using all three at once could totally kill a cockroach colony

3H ago

Solar eclipse boom-time for small cities in the sweet spot

One Chilean city of 200,000 sees more than 300,000 visitors flood in to see the moon completely hide the sun for just a few fleeting minutes

1H ago

Fox makes 2,176-mile trek from Norway to Canada

"We couldn't believe our eyes at first," researchers said after watching the resilient fox walk more than 2,000 miles

6H ago

Welcome to July 1969: Inside NASA's restored Mission Control

"CBS This Morning" got an exclusive look inside the three-year, multimillion-dollar renovation

Jun 28

Mink the bear makes an incredible journey home

Mink was relocated after she began to saw humans as a food source. But she didn't stay away for long

Jun 27

DOJ pushes to close loophole for knock-off fentanyl

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is about 100 times stronger than morphine, and its analogues can be even more potent

1H ago

What's behind the growing trend of booze-free events?

According to the CDC, alcohol is estimated to be responsible for about 88,000 deaths per year – more than overdoses from all other drugs combined

1H ago

Green Giant, Trader Joe's vegetables recalled over listeria

The packaged fresh vegetables may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, which can be fatal

3H ago

Americans with diabetes head to Canada: "For us, insulin is like air"

"Getting diagnosed today in 2019 in America with type 1 diabetes – it is a death sentence for some people"

8H ago

16 dog food brands may cause heart disease, FDA warns

Regulator says certain types of pet food are more frequently connected to heart disease in dogs, but why is unclear

22H ago

How student journalists discovered a school district used prison labor

18-year-old Spencer Cliche wrote an article for "The Graphic" that documented a prison labor program

1H ago

U.S. threatens tariffs on European cheese, coffee and whiskey over Airbus-Boeing case

The Trump administration is threatening new tariffs over what it says are illegal subsidiaries to Europe's Airbus

2H ago

Arizona governor pulls incentives state offered Nike to build plant

"Shameful retreat," Gov. Doug Ducey said of Nike while pulling incentives to build a 500-job Nike Air plant near Phoenix

updated 4M ago

Nike "Betsy Ross" sneakers sell for $2,500 on StockX

Shoe was pulled from stores after Colin Kaepernick reportedly objected to 18th century flag design from slavery era

1H ago

Green Giant, Trader Joe's vegetables recalled over listeria

The packaged fresh vegetables may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, which can be fatal

3H ago

Crime

Relative of Ortiz suspect speaks out

A relative of the alleged mastermind in the shooting of former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz is speaking out about the investigation in the Dominican Republic. The relative of Víctor Hugo Gómez Vasquez spoke to CBS Boston station WBZ-TV on the condition of anonymity. WBZ's Anaridis Rodriguez reports from Boston.

1H ago 01:44

Alleged mastermind in David Ortiz shooting speaks out in video

Víctor Hugo Gómez Vasquez made his case in a cellphone video before he was arrested in the David Ortiz shooting

updated 53M ago

Road rage attacker wears blackface in racist courtroom rant

After bizarre presentation, Mark Char, of Oahu, sentenced to life in prison for triple stabbing

9H ago

Secret CBP Facebook page under investigation

Customs and Border Protection said it's investigating a secret Facebook group where agents allegedly mocked migrant deaths. According to ProPublica, there were also lewd posts aimed at members of Congress. Jeff Pegues reports.

18H ago 02:24

Police footage shows suspect dragging deputy

The driver faces an attempted murder charge for the wild incident caught by two cameras.

22H ago 01:41

Solar eclipse boom-time for small cities in the sweet spot

One Chilean city of 200,000 sees more than 300,000 visitors flood in to see the moon completely hide the sun for just a few fleeting minutes

1H ago

NASA launches capsule to test abort system for moonship

The launch abort system would pull a moon-bound crew to safety in a booster failure

7H ago

Welcome to July 1969: Inside NASA's restored Mission Control

"CBS This Morning" got an exclusive look inside the three-year, multimillion-dollar renovation

Jun 28

SpaceX launches Falcon Heavy rocket

SpaceX launched a Falcon Heavy rocket for its third flight, carrying 24 small science and technology satellites into multiple orbits for the Pentagon, NASA and a variety of other agencies. CBS News space consultant Bill Harwood joins "CBSN AM" to explain the goals of the complex mission and what happened.

Jun 25 08:08

3 astronauts complete "once-in-a-lifetime ride" home after 204-day stay in orbit

A Russian cosmonaut, a Canadian and a NASA astronaut return to Earth late Monday after station stay

Jun 25

New on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon

Shows and movies you'll want to stream soon

Jun 24 33 photos

Evidence photos from the police shooting of Danroy "DJ" Henry Jr.

Evidence from the scene of Pace University student DJ Henry’s fatal encounter with Officer Aaron Hess in Mount Pleasant, N.Y.

Jun 22 19 photos

Apollo 11 50th anniversary: 50 photos from the moon

50 photos to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing

Jun 21 50 photos

Deadliest highway in every state

These are the highways with the highest rate of fatal crashes

Jun 20 50 photos

Mount Everest deaths: Inside a deadly climbing season

A look at a treacherous 2019 climbing season on the world's highest peak

Jun 20 39 photos

Popular

Sanders' support drops after debates

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced that he raised $18 million in the second quarter of 2019, equaling his take in the first quarter. Polls, however, show Sanders' support decreasing after the first Democratic debates. Caitlin Huey-Burns and Antjuan Seawright joined CBSN to break down why Sanders is seeing a decline in the polls.

updated 9M ago 15:12

Why electric scooters are facing a backlash

E-scooters are popping up in cities across the U.S., but experts warn of dangers to your health and your pocketbook.

updated 14M ago 01:08

Nike pulls 4th of July flag shoe

The sports apparel giant pulled the limited-edition shoe after the Wall Street Journal reported that former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick pointed out the 18th-century Betsy Ross flag design harkened back to an era of slavery.

1H ago 00:30

Relative of Ortiz suspect speaks out

A relative of the alleged mastermind in the shooting of former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz is speaking out about the investigation in the Dominican Republic. The relative of Víctor Hugo Gómez Vasquez spoke to CBS Boston station WBZ-TV on the condition of anonymity. WBZ's Anaridis Rodriguez reports from Boston.

1H ago 01:44

Trump wants tanks for July 4th spectacular

President Trump is set to have tanks, military flyovers and a Marine One helicopter play a part in Thursday's July 4th celebrations dubbed a "Salute to America." Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin has more on the developments of the events.

1H ago 05:59