U.S. Customs and Border Protection responded Tuesday to leaked photos of the processing site in Donna over the weekend by providing more photos.
Leaked photos were shared with U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, who shared them with the media on Monday. The images showed overcrowding at the facility, particularly in areas where children who entered the U.S. without their parents were held. Unaccompanied children represent a quickly growing group of detained migrants.
The federal agency is facing criticism over its failure to process children within the 72-hour period and the lack of media access to facilities like those in Donna, but they responded Tuesday morning via a statement.
“CBP continues to transfer unaccompanied minors to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as quickly and efficiently as possible after they are apprehended on the Southwest Border,” the statement said. “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.”
CPB provided still imagery and video of the Donna Processing Center in Donna and the Central Processing Center in El Paso via the email, which contained links to dozens of images of the two processing centers.
The government’s photos show migrants walking off a bus into the center, a staff member inspecting a migrant’s head, rows of food supplies, computers, a play area and the holding pods.
But, it also includes images of packed spaces where children are sitting shoulder to shoulder with a television in the corner.
Another shows a different holding area where women laying on mats fill up the entire floor, and others are seated on benches near the corners.
A caption to the images were provided by CBP that read: “Temporary processing facilities in Donna, Texas, safely processes family units and unaccompanied alien children (UACs) encountered and in the custody of the U.S. Border Patrol. The facility will bolsters processing capacity in the RGV while the permanent Centralized Processing Center in McAllen is renovated.”
Holding capacity across the Valley was severely strained over the weekend, following a week of over 10,000 apprehensions. By Sunday, about 5,000 were sitting in custody throughout Border Patrol facilities in the Rio Grande Valley.
The greater numbers led to a quicker processing method that released migrant families without immigration court dates — unlike the traditional form of release that includes a notice to appear at an immigration court on a later date.