"You hear kids crying": Border Patrol agent describes conditions in migrant detention centers

CBP agent on detention facility conditions

Last Updated Jul 3, 2019 9:36 PM EDT

Rio Grande Valley — President Trump is pushing back against reports that migrants are being subjected to horrible conditions in detention centers at the U.S.-Mexico border. On Wednesday afternoon, he tweeted, "many of these illegal aliens are living far better now than where they came from, and in far safer condition."

That's at odds with what the Department of Homeland Security's internal watchdog found: Children were found to have no access to soap and water. Men were stuffed in cells where it is standing room only.

A veteran Border Patrol agent, who did not want their identity revealed, spoke with CBS News about what he has seen.

"Two things hit you right off the bat, the moment you open or walk through these doors of a processing area of any of our facilities: you hear kids crying and simultaneously, you get hit with the smell of people that have been there for too long," the agent said.

Images taken by federal inspectors last month capture the overcrowding issues inside detention facilities across south Texas. The 16-page Office of Inspector General report calls this an immediate risk to migrants and agents.
 
"The OIG report, I really don't understand what the huge uproar about it is. Really the OIG report, all it's doing is putting on paper exactly what we've been telling Congress for months," the agent said.

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Migrant families held at an overcrowded Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Texas, on June 11, 2019.  Department of Homeland Security Inspector General

At the time of the investigation, Border Patrol was holding 8,000 detainees at the Rio Grande Valley. At three facilities, there were children who didn't have shower facilities available to them. 
 
"We're not built with showers. We're not built with kitchenettes where we can have a warm meal for these individuals," the agent said.

He said his family has also been impacted.

"My daughter has been bullied at school numerous times and even my wife has been targeted at her work. And not necessarily targeted specifically, but of course both of them will be asked questions as to — you know, 'Is your husband really killing kids? Is your husband keeping kids at a gas chamber? Does he think he's a Nazi,'" the agent said.

The Senate approved a $4.6 billion measure last week designed to help fix these problems. However, agents in south Texas said they feel like it might be too little too late and the only way to fix this problem is to target old immigration laws.

  • Mireya Villarreal

    Mireya Villarreal is a CBS News correspondent.