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Hispanic Christian Leader Tours Border Facility, Decries Reports of Mistreatment of Migrant Children

07-01-2019
Samuel Rodriguez

Nearly two weeks after reports emerged of alleged deplorable conditions at a Texas Border Protection facility, the head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference said he wanted to tour the facility that had caused nationwide outrage over the treatment of migrant children for himself.

"I requested that the White House immediately grant me access to the detention center in El Paso, Texas," Rev. Samuel Rodriguez said during a press conference Monday.

Rodriguez, along with several pastors from around the country, spent an hour at the Clint Border Patrol Station in El Paso County, Texas last Friday.

"To my surprise, I saw something drastically different from the stories I've been hearing in our national discourse," Rodriguez said.

On June 21, Elora Mukherjee, an immigration attorney and a professor at Columbia Law School, along with a group of lawyers and doctors, reportedly interviewed children being held at the Clint facility.

"In 12 years representing immigrant children in detention, I have never seen such degradation and inhumanity," Mukherjee claimed. "Children were dirty, they were scared, and they were hungry. Nearly every child I spoke with said that they were hungry because they're being given insufficient food."

One doctor who visited the Clint detention center, and another holding facility in McAllen, Texas, described the scene this way:

"The conditions within which they are held could be compared to torture facilities," Dr. Dolly Lucio Sevier, reportedly wrote in a medical declaration obtained by ABC News.

Rev. Rodriguez pushed back at those claims, saying such conditions did not exist when his group visited the Clint facility.

"We found no soiled diapers, no deplorable conditions and no lack of basic necessities," Rodriguez said. "We toured the entire facility."

Rodriguez admitted he was skeptical and repeatedly pressed authorities at the detention facility to make sure that the current conditions they were witnessing were in fact the same conditions as when the lawyers and doctors visited the facility.

"I asked whether or not this was all being staged; Did they just pivot based upon the reporting, did they shift things, did they make modifications in order to accommodate or to respond to the reporting?"

Rodriguez said he wanted to know whether authorities even staged things for groups like his.

"They unequivocally denied it," Rodriguez said. "What they stated was that every condition we were witnessing was the identical condition in the center when the attorneys arrived."

Late Monday, the Associated Press obtained video from Alison Griffith, an attorney who reportedly interviewed several children at the Clint Border Patrol station.

In the video, Griffith can be heard asking a 12-year-old girl in Spanish: "Can you tell me what it was like inside the detention center?"

"They gave us little food. Some children did not bathe, they didn't bathe them. They treated us badly where we were. They were mean to us," the girl tells Griffith.

According to the Associated Press, the girl, whose face is hidden in the video for her protection, arrived in the US from Central America on May 23 and placed at the Border Patrol station in Clint.

She reportedly traveled with her six-year old sister and aunt.  

"Where did you sleep? Did you sleep on beds?" asked Griffith.

"They slept on just the floor," the girl responds."

"Were there many children there?" asks Griffith.

"Yes, there were many children and they were treated badly," she said. "They didn't bathe. They gave them little food, children were crying."

Griffith then asks: "Anything else you might remember from inside the detention center, that made scared or feel uncomfortable?""

"The way they treated us," she responded. "Some children did not sleep, almost. It was ugly in there."

CBN News cannot independently verify the authenticity of the video.

During the press conference, Rev. Rodriguez was pressed by CBN News reporter Heather Sells on allegations that children at the Clint detention center slept on concrete floors.

"I asked to see absolutely everything, including all the sleeping facilities and we did," Rodriguez said in response. "No one sleeping on cement whatsoever, that I can attest to, no one, there were cots, 3 tier cots."

Rodriguez is urging the White and Congress to move quickly to solve the crisis at the border.

"I am asking the President to please, in the Name of Jesus, 'Please President Trump...work with the Republicans and the Democrats...please come together and solve this crisis immediately.'"

Meanwhile, members of the  U.S. Congressional Hispanic Caucus toured three El Paso-area border facilities on Monday, including the one at Clint.

"We came today and we saw that the system is still broken," said U.S. congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Rep. Joaquin Castro. "People's human rights are still being abused. We remain very concerned about the condition in which people are being kept."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-N.Y.) also visited the detention facilities.

"What we saw today was unconscionable," Cortez said.  "No child should ever be taken from their family. No woman should ever be locked up in a pen when they have done no harm to another human being."

President Trump warned that immigration raids in 10 major cities could begin shortly after Independence Day unless "something pretty miraculous" happens in Congress on immigration reform.

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