Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan defended Sunday his department’s treatment of migrants detained at the southern border, and pushed back against reports of squalid conditions at border patrol facilities including the controversial station in Clint, Texas.
“This is an extraordinarily challenging situation. We had an overflow situation with hundreds of children crossing every day. That’s why we were asking for funding for Health and Human Services, to provide adequate bed space so those children could be moved from that immediate border processing into a more appropriate setting for children,” McAleenan told ABC’s “This Week.”
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“So, I’m not denying that there are challenging situations at the border. I’ve been the one talking about it the most,” he continued. “What I can tell you right now is that there’s adequate food, water, and that the reason those children were at Clint station in the first place is so they could have medical consolidated, they had shower facilities — for over a year there’s been showers there. So, this is why we try to provide a better situation for the brief time they’re supposed to spend at the border.”
McAleenan’s remarks followed a report published Saturday by the New York Times and the El Paso Times detailing conditions at the Clint station as “the stuff of nightmares” — including “outbreaks of scabies, shingles and chickenpox” among detained migrant children. The report also states that Border Patrol leadership “knew for months that some children had no beds to sleep on, no way to clean themselves and sometimes went hungry.”
McAleenan insisted Sunday that the Clint station remains sanitary and is cleaned daily, adding: “I know what our standards are and I know they’re being followed because we have tremendous levels of oversight.” He also dismissed as unsubstantiated allegations of “inadequate food, inadequate water and unclean cells” at the facility, and said that his department has “no evidence that children went hungry.”
Asked about the reports that Border Patrol agents have raised alarms about the conditions at Clint, McAleenan responded: “Of course we’re worried about it. Everyone in the entire chain of command was worried about the situation for children.”
A DHS inspector general’s report on Tuesday found “dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults” at migrant detention centers, prompting Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to call Wednesday for the firing of top Customs and Border Protection officials.