Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, fellow Democrats testify on 'cruelty' of border facilities

Danielle Haynes
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.,called the border crisis manufactured because there's no need to separate migrant children from their families. Photo by Alex Edelman/UPI
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.,called the border crisis manufactured because there's no need to separate migrant children from their families. Photo by Alex Edelman/UPI | License Photo

July 12 (UPI) -- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of several lawmakers who toured border facilities earlier this month, testified Friday about what she described as the "cruelty" of Trump administration's treatment of migrants.

She and seven other representatives spoke to their colleagues on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about their border visits.


Ocasio-Cortez repeated statements she released immediately after the visit to the El Paso facility, that she saw women drinking water from toilets.

"When these women tell me that they were put into a cell, and that their sink was not working, and we tested the sink ourselves and the sink was not working, and they were told the drink out of a toilet bowl -- I believed them," she said.

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"And what was worse about this, Mr. Chairman, was the fact that there were American flags hanging all over these facilities -- that children being separated from their parents, in front of an American flag -- that women were being called these names under an American flag. We cannot allow for this."

President Donald Trump, speaking Friday morning outside the White House, told reporters that Ocasio-Cortez's statement about migrants drinking from toilets is "a phony story."


"She made it up," he said, adding that Border Patrol officials "love those people coming across the border."

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Ocasio-Cortez said the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border is "manufactured" because border officials are separating children from their families unnecessarily.

Though the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy -- in which migrant children were separated from their parents and guardians -- ended more than a year ago, federal data indicate up to five children are separated from their families each day.

"The cruelty is manufactured," Ocasio-Cortez said. "This is a manufactured crisis because there is no need for us to do this."

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Fellow Democratic Reps. Veronica Escobar of Texas, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan also testified. Pressley said one woman she met feared for her health because her seizure medication had been confiscated.

"I held the hand of a woman who heaves sobs as she explained her deep fear that at any moment she could fall to the floor in a seizure," she said.

Among the Republicans who testified was Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, who said there is a crisis on the border because federal border officials aren't given the funding and resources needed to handle the influx of migrants.

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"It is real," he said. "We do not get anywhere by blaming the people who are doing their best to help these people."

Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., blamed what she described as the United States' lax immigration laws.

"In my world, what I believe is the real world, the crisis has been mounting for years, and people like me have sounded the alarm for years over and over and over again," she said.

Republican Reps. Michael Cloud and Chip Roy, both of Texas, also testified, along with former Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting Director Thomas Homan, federal officials and immigration advocates.

The committee hearing came as Vice President Mike Pence toured a migrant detention facility in Donna, Texas. He and Republican members of Congress held a roundtable and spoke with some of the migrants housed there.

Some children told Pence they had enough food when he asked, but others said they didn't have a place to "get cleaned up."

Pence told reporters he "couldn't be more impressed" with the Customs and Border Patrol officials working at the facility.

"Every family I spoke to said they were being well cared for," the vice president said, criticizing Democrats for their "harsh rhetoric" about the conditions.


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