A Customs and Border Protection official said Tuesday the agency was not running low on supplies in response to reports that people looking to make donations were being turned away from its facilities in the wake of claims that children were held in “appalling” conditions at a Texas border station.
The official said the agency had put out a data call to sectors to see what supplies were needed and in the future it would consult with its office of legal counsel to decide whether it can legally accept any donations from the public.
“But what I would add is, we’re not running low on those things,” the official said when asked about reports of people looking to donate hygiene products and food. “We’re using operational funding to provide those things, but those things are available now and they have been continuously.”
The official added that while CBP was looking into the possibility of using some donations going forward, “those items, it’s important to note, are available now, we’ve used our own funding to buy those things.”
Lawyers who visited a Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas, described “appalling” and overcrowded conditions, including children wearing dirty clothes and who had not been able to shower, inadequate food, flu outbreaks and a lack of access to soap or toothpaste.
“I have never seen conditions as appalling as what we witnessed last week,” Elora Mukherjee, the director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School, said Monday.
The Texas Tribune reported that after reading the media reports of the squalid conditions at the facility, people have been trying to drop off donations of items such as diapers, wipes, soap and toys at the site but have been turned away.
“It makes me feel powerless knowing there’s children taking care of toddlers and little kids,” Gabriel Acuña told the Texas Tribune. “Knowing what’s happening in your community and that you can’t give these kids supplies to clean or clothe themselves — it’s heartbreaking.”
“For God’s sake, they’re kids, man,” he said.
CBP moved about 300 migrant children from the border station to a tent detention camp in Tornillo on Monday. The Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement Monday night that last week, it identified shelter space for 249 migrant children at the Clint facility and that those children should all be in the agency’s care as of Tuesday.
On Tuesday morning, CBP said it transported a group of about 100 children to the Clint facility.
It was not clear how many of the new arrivals were previously held at the same facility.
The official said allegations of inadequate food and sanitation were being “taken seriously” and being investigated.
“I personally don’t believe the allegations,” the official added.
CBP said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that Border Patrol carried out existing contingency plans to manage the number of migrant children by expanding capacity in additional facilities in the El Paso sector. Because many of the children transferred out of the Clint facility were transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency resumed using the Clint facility to hold migrant children.
On Tuesday, acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders told employees he would be stepping down July 5. Sanders did not provide a reason for his departure.