July 30 (UPI) -- Mark Morgan, the acting chief of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, on Tuesday defended conditions at migrant detention facilities as well as the agency's officers.
He called for and end to the "demonizing of law enforcement professionals" during an appearance before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
"The men and women of CBP are not running concentration camps, making those in our custody drink from toilets, nor denying them access to toothbrushes," Morgan said responding directly to previous testimony by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after she visited one of the facilities. "That is simply not true."
He accused members of Congress of making "overheated" attacks on CBP.
"This is the kind of irresponsible rhetoric that they have to ensure from the media and even some of our own congressional leaders," Morgan said. "It's unjust and does nothing to help us resolve one of the most divisive issues in our country."
Ocasio-Cortez and other lawmakers spoke to their colleagues on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on July 12 about their experiences visiting border facilities.
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.
Several Democratic senators also have visited border facilities in Texas, including Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer, who visited a facility in McAllen. He said the trip left him with an awful feeling, especially since he'd been told 400 people were taken out of the facility to make it look better the day before he arrived.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., introduced the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act that aims to stop the alleged abuse happening at the border. This would allow members of Congress, their staff and media to enter border detention facilities with 24-hour notice. Schumer co-sponsored the bill.
Also appearing at Tuesday's hearing was Jennifer Costello, deputy inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security. Her agency released a report earlier this month detailing severe overcrowding at five facilities in Texas' Rio Grande Valley.
The report said children were denied showers, clean clothing and hot meals. Several adults hadn't had a shower for as long as a month.
Costello testified Tuesday that conditions were "far more grievous than those previously encountered." She said conditions posed health and safety risks to the migrants detained there.