Homeland Security released images Tuesday of children packed in pens in Border Patrol stations, rushing to try to regain control of the narrative after leaked photos already exposed the troubling conditions.
Photos and video show what appear to be both unaccompanied juveniles who showed up at the border without parents, and full families with parents and children who arrived together.
Some images show children lined up for processing, with no social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic. The children do appear to have masks, though since much of the imagery is blurred — presumably for privacy reasons — it’s impossible to determine whether the masks are always being worn properly.
One image shows a baby playpen that was built inside one of the facilities, with toys and mylar blankets. Images also show warehouse-like rooms where supplies for the migrants are stockpiled.
Homeland Security officials say the Border Patrol agents tasked with babysitting the children and families are doing heroic work.
Still, the conditions have sparked outrage on Capitol Hill, where both Democrats and Republicans say that two years after the last migrant surge the new administration should have been better prepared.
Gone are the chain-link fences around the pens that were built during the Obama years and still in use during the Trump administration.
Instead, the children are divided by plastic barriers. But they are still penned in.
Reporters had been pressing Customs and Border Protection for access to the facilities but had been rebuffed.
Images leaked over the last several days exposed the conditions, and CBP responded Tuesday with its own release.
“In order to protect the health and safety of our workforce and those in our care, we continue to discourage external visitors in our facilities; however, CBP is working to balance the need for public transparency and accountability,” the agency said.
Members of Congress who have visited the facilities have called them shocking, and labeled the surge of children a “crisis.”
President Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas have rejected that label, and say they have plans to deal with the surge, although Mr. Mayorkas has indicated the numbers are likely to get worse in coming months.