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Homeland Chief Defends Child Facilities

Kevin McAleenan appears on ABC's 'This Week'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 7, 2019 2:50 PM CDT
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In this Feb.19, 2019 file photo, children line up to enter a tent at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in Homestead, Fla.   (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
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(Newser) – Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan on Sunday defended conditions at US Border Patrol stations following reports of crowded and unsanitary conditions that have heightened debate about President Donald Trump's immigration policy, a trademark issue for his reelection campaign. "It's an extraordinarily challenging situation," McAleenan tells ABC's This Week, per the AP. The Homeland Security Department's internal watchdog provided new details Tuesday about severe overcrowding in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for illegal crossings. The report said children at three facilities had no access to showers and that some children under age 7 had been held in jammed centers for more than two weeks. Some cells were so cramped that adults were forced to stand for days on end.

Government inspectors described an increasingly dangerous situation, both for migrants and agents—a "ticking time bomb," in the words of one facility manager. The report echoed findings in May by the department's inspector general about holding centers in El Paso, Texas: 900 people crammed into a cell with a maximum capacity of 125; detainees standing on toilets to have room to breathe; others wearing soiled clothing for days or weeks. Democrats faulted Trump for not offering an immigration overhaul that could pass a divided Congress. But McAleenan said that since the first of the year, 200 medical providers have been added to facilities, and he disputed news reports of especially troubling conditions at a border station in Texas. He also said the number of children in custody is down from 2,500 on June 1 to 350 on Saturday.

(Read more US-Mexico border stories.)

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