- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer demanded a total decapitation of leadership at the government’s border agency Wednesday, saying only a full housecleaning can fix a “toxic” culture among Border Patrol agents and improve conditions for illegal immigrants.

But President Trump said the criticism is misguided, saying agents are doing a heroic job, going “above and beyond” amid trying times.

Mr. Trump spoke as criticism of conditions at the border reached a boiling this week, fueled by Democrats’ eyewitness accounts of their own visits to several Customs and Border Protection facilities in Texas, where they reported on an unfathomable situation, including alleging women were told to get drinking water from toilets.

Adding to the outrage was the revelation of a secret Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents that shared offensive messages and questioned the motives of congressional Democrats in the border debate.

Mr. Schumer said things have gotten so bad that only a clean sweep at Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol and the overcrowded border-processing facilities, will suffice.



That would mean ousting acting Customs and Border Protection Director Mark Morgan — who’s only been at the post for a few weeks, and others that the New York Democrat didn’t name.

“Too much of CBP has been an out-of-control agency for too long and it must be reined in immediately,” Mr. Schumer said.

Other Democrats chimed in with vows to launch congressional investigations and demanded better training for agents who were involved with the secret Facebook group.

A group of Senate Democrats running for president penned a letter demanding answers.

“In response to a news story about a 16-year-old Guatemalan migrant who died in May while in CBP custody, group members posted an image of Elmo saying ‘Oh well’ while another stated ‘If he dies, he dies,’” the group wrote. “Not only is such indifference towards the death of several human beings inhumane, it is especially troubling when said by those individuals responsible for serving the public at our border.”

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, who himself was CBP commissioner until he was elevated a few months ago, said he’s ordered an immediate investigation into the Facebook group and said Border Patrol agents who broke the rules will be “held accountable.”

“These statements are completely unacceptable,” he said.

Mr. Trump, while not addressing the Facebook posts specifically, praised agents for the job they’re doing.

“Our Border Patrol people are not hospital workers, doctors or nurses,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “The Democrats bad Immigration Laws, which could be easily fixed, are the problem. Great job by Border Patrol, above and beyond.”

And he suggested those migrants who are complaining about their conditions of detention have other options.

“If Illegal Immigrants are unhappy with the conditions in the quickly built or refitted detentions centers, just tell them not to come. All problems solved!” the president opined.

He also doubted Democrats’ reports of rough conditions, saying they would complain “no matter how good things actually look, even if perfect.”

Yet things are far from perfect.

The Homeland Security inspector general reported this week on overcrowding at four border facilities.

Built in the 1980s and 1990s, they were generally intended to process migrants who were then either quickly returned back to Mexico, sent to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or, in the case of unaccompanied children, turned over to the Health and Human Services Department.

The surge of migrant families from Central America has changed all that.

ICE’s bed space is full, and so is the HHS’s. And since the migrants are not from Mexico and can’t generally be immediately sent back, they have ended up staying for days or weeks in facilities meant to hold people for a few hours.

Homeland Security has had to rush in portable showers and build holding cells, stock up on baby formula and blankets, and make dozens of trips a day to clinics and hospitals to get emergency medical care for the ailing migrants.

Cells are at two or three times capacity, and the inspector general reported in one case, a cell was standing-room-only for a week.

Some male migrants have taken to clogging toilets with their blankets to force evacuations of the cells — and in one instance almost sparked a riot by refusing to return to the cell after the clog was fixed.

Unaccompanied juveniles were given sandwiches and snacks, rather than the hot meals required under a court settlement. And a significant minority of the children are kept longer than the 72-hour limit imposed by that court agreement.

“If nothing else makes Americans angry, how children are being treated should spark outrage,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat. “They’re forced to sleep on concrete floors. They don’t have enough to eat. Many don’t even have the ability to bathe themselves.”

Congress and Mr. Trump reached a deal last month on a $4.6 billion emergency aid package that will expand HHS bed space for children, which should reduce the number of unaccompanied juveniles stuck at the border.

The bill also includes money to expand temporary CBP processing facilities and to buy more “consumables” — the soap, toothbrushes and other items migrants say are in short supply.

CBP says the money will help.

But the agency said to really solve things will require Congress to change the laws and reduce the incentives that have drawn record numbers of illegal immigrant families to jump the border this year Democrats don’t want to alter those laws, arguing they provide important safety valves for the relatively few cases that are actual refugees fleeing rough conditions.

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