Photo shows hybrid of toilet and drinking fountain in migrant detention centers, where women allegedly had to drink from the bowl
- On Monday Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez was one of a group of lawmakers who visited a Customs and Border Protection migrant detention facilities near El Paso, Texas.
- She said in a tweet that migrants were being held in appalling conditions, and were "drinking out of toilets."
- Critics accused her of misrepresenting the situation. The CBP said migrants were using toilet units with in-built drinking fountains for clean drinking water.
- Ocasio-Cortez hit back, saying that on the visit they found the fountains weren't working, and "women were told they could drink out of the bowl."
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After Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez visited a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention facility for migrants in El Paso, Texas, Monday, she described shocking conditions and officials using "psychological warfare" against detainees.
The most alarming claim was that migrants were made to drink from toilets.
"Now I've seen the inside of these facilities. It's not just the kids. It's everyone," she wrote on Twitter.
"People drinking out of toilets, officers laughing in front of members Congress. I brought it up to their superiors. They said "officers are under stress & act out sometimes." No accountability."
Her claims were disputed by the CBP.
An official told the New York Post that migrants are not drinking out of toilet bowls.
Instead, the official said, the facility has prison-style toilets where drinking water is dispensed from a fountain attached to the toilet as part of a single unit.
"'No one is drinking toilet water," an official said. "They're drinking potable water from the sink attached to the toilet."
Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, an immigration lawyer and Policy Analyst at the American Immigration Council, tweeted pictures of the toilet-drinking fountain combos taken from court filings and other inspections of detention facilities.
The photo shows one of the units from a 2016 Arizona court filing.
Other pictures showed filthy conditions in toilets, and out-of-order drinking fountains.
Ocasio-Cortez's description of the facilities echoes claims made in court documents filed Monday by migrants detained in CBP facilities.
"(T)hey would tell us to drink from the sink above the toilet," said a migrant named as Cristobal, who is detained with his seven-year-old son in June near El Paso. "We did not get any clean water the entire time."
Seizing on the pictures though, critics accused Ocasio-Cortez of misrepresenting the situation. David Martosko, US Politics editor for DailyMail.com, was among them.
"I haven't seen photo of the Clint, TX facilities that @AOC described today, but it would be interesting if 'drinking from the toilet' meant drinking from an attached sink marked 'potable water,' he tweeted, with the 2016 photo.
In response, Ocasio-Cortez said the photo did show the type of hybrid unit she saw in Texas.
However, she said that in the facility she visited, the drinking part was broken and the migrants had been told to drink from the toilet itself.
She said: "This was in fact the type of toilet we saw in the cell. Except there was just one, and the sink portion was not functioning - @AyannaPressley smartly tried to open the faucet, and nothing came out. So the women were told they could drink out of the bowl."
Business Insider has contacted Boston congresswoman Ayanna Pressley for comment on Ocasio-Cortez's claims. On Monday night, she shared Ocasio-Cortez' tweet.
The CBP did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Ocasio-Cortez's new claim.
As @AOC noted, people held in CBP custody are often asked to drink out of toilets, which is disgusting for those held in those facilities. Here's an example of one cell where a toilet/fountain in a cell has "Agua Potable" written above it. pic.twitter.com/dUJKzWaOHH- Aaron Reichlin-Melnick (@ReichlinMelnick) July 1, 2019
As a brief addendum, here are some more pictures of disgusting conditions in cells in the Tucson Sector border patrol facilities from 2015. There were also broken water fountains in some cells. pic.twitter.com/Xpv42aUxkj- Aaron Reichlin-Melnick (@ReichlinMelnick) July 1, 2019
This was in fact the type of toilet we saw in the cell.- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 1, 2019
Except there was just one, and the sink portion was not functioning - @AyannaPressley smartly tried to open the faucet, and nothing came out.
So the women were told they could drink out of the bowl. https://t.co/rcu9Rt6B2x