- The Washington Times - Monday, March 22, 2021

The Biden administration has barred journalists from visiting migrant holding facilities on the southern border, and photos released Monday may explain why.

Project Veritas and Axios both published images reportedly from inside the Customs and Border Protection overflow facility in Donna, Texas, showing crowded conditions and little social distancing within the clear plastic makeshift holding cells.

The Project Veritas photos, which showed boys and young men sleeping on floor pads wrapped in foil blankets, were leaked by an “insider” who told Veritas that as many as 3,000 people are in custody at the 185,000-square-foot facility.

“Nobody has seen photos inside of this place, until now,” said Project Veritas President James O’Keefe, adding, “Why won’t the administration be honest about this? Why won’t they show you these images?”

The Veritas source said that 50 of those held in the last few days were positive for the novel coronavirus, and that there “have been multiple sexual assaults, normal assaults and daily medical emergencies.”

Rep. Henry Cuellar, Texas Democrat, provided the photos to Axios to “raise awareness of the situation.” He said the eight pods were designed to hold 260 people, but on Sunday, one pod held 400, according to Axios.

SEE ALSO: White House: Border situation is ‘not a crisis’

Mr. Cuellar said the photos were taken over the weekend but that he did not take them himself, nor has he toured the recently constructed Donna facility.

“Cuellar described the setting as ‘terrible conditions for the children’ and said they need to be moved more rapidly into the care of the Department of Health and Human Services,” Axios said. “Border Patrol agents are ‘doing the best they can under the circumstances’ but are ‘not equipped to care for kids’ and ‘need help from the administration.’”

The CBP reacted to the leaked photos by citing a Sunday comment on CNN from Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas: “I have said repeatedly from the very outset a border patrol station is no place for a child. That is why we are working around the clock to move these children out of the border patrol facilities into the care and custody of the Department of Health and Human Services that shelters them.”

On his first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order requiring masks and social distancing on federal property and buildings, and while most of those in the photos were wearing masks, the crowded conditions would make it all but impossible to practice social distancing.

Mr. Mayorkas declined to say Sunday when reporters and photographers would be allowed inside the facilities as alarm grows over the flood of migrants swamping the southern border.

“We are in the midst of a pandemic,” Mr. Mayorkas told CNN’s “State of the Union” “We are dealing with crowded border patrol facilities, we are focused on our operations and the needs of the children, and at the same time, we are working to provide access to those border patrol facilities when we can do so in a safe manner.”

He blamed the Trump administration for dismantling the previous immigration system, while Republicans have accused the White House of creating a crisis by loosening the Trump-era controls on illegal immigration without putting in place adequate safeguards and facilities first.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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