Ocasio-Cortez said that the women she met were kept in a room with no running water

By Ashley Boucher
July 02, 2019 01:28 AM
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After a visit to two different immigrant detention facilities in Texas, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez described what she says are “horrifying” conditions where women were being told to drink from toilets.

In a tweet on Monday, Ocasio-Cortez said that the types of sinks available to detainees for water were attached to the tops of toilets. However, the sinks at the facility that she visited were not working, and she said that the women were told to drink directly from the toilet bowl instead.

“Officers were keeping women in cells w/ no water & had told them to drink out of the toilets,” she tweeted.

In response to a tweet from the U.K. tabloid Daily Mail‘s political editor, David Martosko, who posted a photo of toilets similar to those that Ocasio-Cortez described, the New York representative said that the toilets in the photo he shared were “in fact” the type that she saw but they were not in working condition.

“Except there was just one, and the sink portion was not functioning – @AyannaPressley smartly tried to open the faucet, and nothing came out. So the women were told they could drink out of the bowl,” she wrote in her tweet.

She also accused the Customs and Border Patrol in the facilities of being “physically &sexually threatening towards me.”

“This was them on their GOOD behavior in front of members of Congress,” she said.

“There’s abuse in this facility,” she told NBC News‘ El Paso, Texas, affiliate, KTSM. “This is them on their best behavior? And they put them in a room with no running water, and these women were being told by CBP officers to drink out of the toilet.”

Asked to comment on Ocasio-Cortez’s statements, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection directed PEOPLE to a call with reporters by a CBP official prior to her visit in which the agency argued, “all the allegations of civil rights abuses, or mistreatment and detention are taken seriously and investigated to the fullest extent.”

The official also said in the call that the facilities in which people are being detained were designed in the 1990s and early 2000s and meant for “short-term holdings only.”

In another tweet, Ocasio-Cortez said that the women she met told her they had gone 15 days without being able to take a shower and that they were only allowed to bathe when her visit was announced four days ago.

The CBP official said in the call that time between showers depends on capacity.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and migrant detainees
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez/Twitter

“We are currently providing showers, at least on a minimum when our capacity numbers are high, at least every 72 hours,” the official said. “When our in custody numbers are below 300, then the showers are allowed every 48 hours, and when they are below 300 they are available upon request, also.”

Ocasio-Cortez was seen in photos hugging the women at the facilities, where she said she “held & listened to them. They were distraught.”

She called the situation at the El Paso and Clint, Texas centers “horrifying.”

“It is hard to understate the enormity of the problem,” she said in another tweet. “We’re talking systemic cruelty w/ a dehumanizing culture that treats them like animals.”

Last week, the House of Representatives passed an emergency funding bill to provide $4.6 billion in resources and support for asylum seekers at the border, NBC News reported.

“The children come first. At the end of the day, we have to make sure that the resources needed to protect the children are available,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a letter to her Democratic House colleagues after the measure had to be modified to include fewer protections than Democrats were initially seeking. “In order to get resources to the children fastest, we will reluctantly pass the Senate bill.”

• With reporting by ADAM CARLSON