In one photo, one of 88 men in a cell meant for 41 presses a piece of cardboard against the window, with the word "help." In another, a man lowers his head and clasps his hands as if in prayer. And in a third, a woman wearing a surgical mask presses both of her hands against the glass. The images were released Tuesday by US government inspectors who visited facilities in south Texas where migrant adults and children who crossed the nearby border with Mexico are processed and detained, the AP reports. As public outrage grows over the conditions in which thousands of people—some no more than a few months old—are being held by the US government, the report offered new cause for alarm. It quotes one senior government manager as calling the situation "a ticking time bomb."
"Specifically, when detainees observed us, they banged on the cell windows, shouted, pressed notes to the window with their time in custody, and gestured to evidence of their time in custody," the report says. BuzzFeed first reported on a draft version of the report, which blurs most faces in the photos. The report details several potential violations of federal law or Border Patrol standards. Two facilities inspected had not provided children access to hot meals until the week that auditors arrived. Of 2,669 children detained by the Border Patrol in the region, 826, or 31%, had been held there longer than 72 hours. Many adults hadn't showered despite having been held for as long as a month. Some were being given wet wipes to clean themselves. (Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says guards were disrespectful when she toured migrant detention facilities.)