At Border Detention Centers, Pence Says, 'The Crisis Is Real'

Trump has called reports of poor conditions 'phony'
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 13, 2019 8:29 AM CDT
'This is tough stuff': Pence Goes to Border Detention Centers
Vice President Mike Pence's motorcade enters the detention center in Donna, Texas, on Friday.   (Joel Martinez/The Monitor via AP)

Vice President Mike Pence visited a migrant detention center Friday where he saw nearly 400 men locked behind caged fences, appeared to scrunch his nose at the stench, and quickly left. Pence, who brought Republican lawmakers with him, had already taken in the sight from a bird's-eye room at the McCallen, Texas, detention center, the Washington Post reports. What he saw was the men in an area with a concrete floor, without enough space for them all to lie down and without pillows or mats. Reporters who were given a tour before Pence arrived said the men screamed that they'd been held 40 days or longer. They said they were hungry and wanted to brush their teeth. There was no water in their area, and the men have to ask Border Patrol agents for permission to drink. "This is tough stuff," Pence said after his tour.

Pence's office said the Border Patrol was told not to clean up or change anything for his visit, so the American people could see the conditions. Officials did try to counter some of the men's claims, saying they're allowed to brush their teeth once a day, but conceding that many had not been able to shower for 10 to 20 days. "I was not surprised by what I saw," Pence said later at a news conference. "I knew we’d see a system that was overwhelmed." He'd visited a detention center in Donna earlier Friday that is just two months old and makes a better appearance. While he was there, Pence criticized Democrats for likening the detention centers to concentration camps. "I couldn't be more impressed with the compassionate work that our Customs and Border Protection are doing here at this border facility," Pence said at Donna, per NBC. But he repeated, "The crisis is real," which seemed to contradict President Trump, the Post points out. Even Friday, Trump had called news media reports and Democratic charges about bad conditions at the detention centers "phony." (Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's visit to border detention centers became tense.)

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