Republicans see migrant detainee abuse. Will they care? Of course not.

A group of Republican lawmakers went to an immigrant detention facility in Texas. Donald Trump had sent them there, supposedly to dispel reports of awful conditions that had been coming from so many different sources. The video below shows vice president Mike Pence, and senators Lindsey Graham, Mike Lee, Marsha Blackburn, John Cornyn, and Thom Tillis and possibly other senators visiting a detention center where men were housed in severely overcrowded cages and the guard wear masks to presumably avoid the stench of a large mass of people who have been denied basic sanitary facilities.

Pool reporter John Dawsey of the Washington Post described what he saw and Cody Fenwick summarized it.

There were about 400 men caged in a fenced-in area outdoors, “so crowded that it would have been impossible for all of the men to lie on the concrete,” Dawsey reported.

“There were no mats or pillows — some of the men were sleeping on concrete,” he said. “The stench was horrendous.”

He described the weather as “sweltering hot.”

The men in the cages began shouting at the press when they came by, saying that they’ve been kept there for 40 days or longer. Dawsey said they appeared dirty. The patrol agent in charge at the station admitted some of the men hadn’t showered for 10 or 20 days because the facility only recently got showers. He claimed that, despite what the immigrants had said, no one had been at the facility longer than 32 days. The men also told the press they wanted to brush their teeth; the patrol agent said they were allowed to once a day.

Inside the facility, it’s not clear it was much better.

“Crowded cells could be seen all around,” Dawsey reported. “382 men were in the cells, many of them appeared quite young and some shirtless, and they pressed their faces up against the window to see the commotion.”

He continued: “[The patrol agent] said the facility was cleaned three times a day, but it did not seem that way, and that it was air conditioned, but it did not feel that way.”

It is possible that these Republicans went there to try and counter the damaging revelations put forward by the progressive Democrats who visited earlier and who had blasted the horrendous treatment of the detainees. If that is the case, they failed badly. Although a statement from Pence’s office said it had “specifically instructed CBP to not clean up or sanitize the facility beyond what is routine so the American people could see how serious the crisis at our border is”, I seriously doubt that is true. You can be sure that the CBP would have tried to put on a good face for their supportive Republicans and the media and yet this was the best they could do.

As Chris Hayes noted, it is telling that not a single one of these Republicans had the basic humanity to talk to any of the detainees, instead viewing them through the mesh like they would animals in a zoo. Contrast that with the earlier visit by progressive Democrats who sat down with the detainees and talked with them.

But there is another, more cynical, explanation for what we saw and that is that Pence and these Republican senators wanted everyone to see these men treated like animals in cages with them watching on impassively, because their base wants them to be manifestly cruel to the detainees. Maybe that was why they picked a cage that contained only men. Showing a large group of unwashed, bearded men of color shouting will feed the paranoia of their xenophobic base by enabling them to suggest that the people trying to get into the country are dangerous criminals, the ‘rapists’ and ‘murderers’ and ‘gang members’ that Trump keeps portraying them as. It is harder to do that with women and children. With this administration, the most cynical explanation is usually the correct one.

Explain to me again why these should not be called concentration camps?


  1. lochaber says

    The U.S. is denying these people medical care and hygiene.
    The next step is to deny them food and water

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