Immigration advocates are sounding the alarm over “inhumane” conditions for asylum seekers who have been forced to wait under an overpass outside a Border Patrol station in El Paso, Texas.
On 27 March, Washington Post immigration reporters Nick Miroff and Bob Moore tweeted photographs showing the scene under the bridge. Miroff gave the following description of one of the photographs: “This is El Paso right now, where hundreds of migrant families are being held in the parking lot of a Border Patrol station because there is no room for them inside, or anywhere else.”
This is El Paso right now, where hundreds of migrant families are being held in the parking lot of a Border Patrol station because there is no room for them inside, or anywhere else. pic.twitter.com/lFGZ9zRcZk
— Nick Miroff (@NickMiroff) March 27, 2019
For his part, Moore tweeted: “Hundreds of migrants are being held under the Paso Del Norte Bridge in El Paso, near the site of [Customs and Border Protection agency] Commissioner [Kevin] McAleenan’s press conference.”
— Bob Moore (@BobMooreNews) March 27, 2019
The images of hundreds of women, men and small children forced to wait in a crowded area behind fencing barbed with concertina wire have sparked outrage online.
Women’s March director of communications and digital outreach Sophie Ellman-Golan blasted the “appalling” photographs on Twitter, saying the site “looks like a concentration camp.”
This looks like a concentration camp. It’s appalling.
— Sophie Ellman-Golan (@EgSophie) March 28, 2019
Writer Lauren Hough, who is based in Texas, shared images of the holding site with the caption: “This is a f***ing concentration camp. We are running concentration camps.”
This is a fucking concentration camp. We are running concentration camps. https://t.co/D6KVPNgY04
— Lauren Hough (@laurenthehough) March 28, 2019
“This is an inhumane and inexcusable way to treat people,” Taylor Levy, legal coordinator for the El Paso migrant shelter Annunciation House, told Reuters of the situation in El Paso.
According to the news agency, asylum seekers held in the El Paso enclosure were being given thermal blankets, as well as access to some shelter, water and medical evaluations.
However, Levy said some asylum seekers told her they had been waiting in the area for their asylum claims to be processed for as many as four days, with young children, including toddlers, left sleeping on dirt and gravel below a bridge.
In a news conference in El Paso on Wednesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan told reporters that the “breaking point” his agency has warned about for weeks had finally arrived, with March set to be “the highest month” in apprehensions and encounters with migrants in over a decade.
According to the CBP chief, the agency was on track to detain more than 100,000 people in March alone, representing the highest monthly total in 10 years.
“CBP is facing an unprecedented humanitarian border security crisis all along our southwest border,” McAleenan said. “And nowhere has that crisis manifested more acutely than here in El Paso.”
The CBP commissioner said that for the first time in over a decade, the agency had started to perform “direct releases” of migrants at the southern border, leaving Border Patrol agents to “expeditiously” decide on whether migrants should be accepted into custody or be released pending a court hearing “on a risk basis.”