MIGRANTS IN TEXAS CAMP TOLD TO ‘DRINK OUT OF THE TOILET’ says senator Ocasio-Cortez

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Last Tuesday’s demonstration outside the White House demanding the closure of migrant detention camps

A REPORT by US President Donald Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security says conditions in border patrol accommodation for migrants in southern Texas is worse than the White House had said.

This came as as America prepared for last Thursday’s national July 4th celebrations.

Trump said in a tweet on Wednesday evening that if the migrants were unhappy with the conditions, they shouldn’t come.

The Department of Homeland Security report has published photos of overcrowding in the camps while in some cells there is only room to stand, and other images show detainees pleading for release.

Inspectors visited five detention centres and ports of entry in the Rio Grande Valley where they found migrants living in squalid conditions, packed into cells with standing room only and sleeping on the floor.

Some migrants had been kept in detention for more than a month and were given wet wipes, as they did not have access to showers.

Members of Congress, who visited the facilities, expressed their outrage at the behaviour of agents who worked for the Customs and Border Protection force.

Democratic senator Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said: ‘They put them in a room with no running water and these women were being told by CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) officers to drink out of the toilet.’

Another Democrat filmed inside a cell with mothers who had been forcibly separated from their children. He said said there is one man who must shoulder the blame.

‘These are the conditions that have been created by the Trump administration, these are the inhumane conditions that folks are facing.’

Also, it has now emerged that current and former border agents are members of a private Facebook group that is engaged in racist threats and uses highly derogatory language about the migrants and refugees in their care.

One of the posts written by this private Facebook group said: ‘There should be no photo ops for these scum buckets.’

Another commented about a pregnant woman saying: ‘She’s ‘HOPING’ to cash in on all the perks we SUCKER US taxpayers lavish on them!!!’.

The acting head of Homeland Security called the social media exchanges ‘disturbing and inexcusable’.

Anger at the treatment and conditions of America’s migrant detention camps continues to grow.

Demonstrations were held not only at The White House but also at Texas and across the country last Tuesday demanding the closure of detention facilities holding migrant children and families.

Crowds of protesters chanting, ‘Close the camps, now!’ gathered outside the offices of various US senators and representatives in cities such as New York, Chicago and Indianapolis.

Advocacy group MoveOn, which is rallying protesters using the #closethecamps hashtag, said there were 185 ‘mobilisations’ planned last Tuesday to demand authorities close the detention facilities, withhold funds for detaining and deporting migrants, and ‘bear witness and reunite families.’

‘None of this is right. This is not a place for children,’ protester Charlie Fomby said outside a facility housing unaccompanied migrant children in Homestead, Florida.

The facility houses more than 2,300 immigrant children, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Meanwhile, since 2018, the US government has conducted an unlawful and discriminatory campaign of intimidation, threats, harassment, and criminal investigations against people who defend the human rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers on the US-Mexico border.

Amnesty International said in a new report, ‘Saving lives is not a crime’ released last Tuesday: ‘Politically motivated legal harassment of migrant human rights defenders by the USA reveals how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have increasingly misused the criminal justice system to deter activists, lawyers, journalists, and humanitarian volunteers from challenging – or simply documenting – the systematic human rights violations that US authorities have committed against migrants and asylum seekers.

‘The Trump administration’s targeting of human rights defenders through discriminatory misuse of the criminal justice system sets it on a slippery slope toward authoritarianism,’ they warned.

‘The US government is disgracing itself by threatening and even prosecuting its own citizens for their vital work to save the lives of people in a desperate situation at the border,’ said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

The US government has inappropriately investigated human rights defenders for alleged crimes including human smuggling, based on their humanitarian and human rights-related activities, and their expression of political or other opinions.

While the most sweeping investigations targeted human rights defenders supporting a large caravan of migrants and asylum seekers in November 2018, authorities have continued to target those and other defenders since then, including simply for helping asylum seekers to know their rights and request protection at an official port of entry.

US authorities have also subjected human rights defenders to warrantless surveillance, interrogations, invasive searches, travel restrictions, and, in isolated cases, a false arrest and unlawful detention. In so doing, they have violated the Constitution, US and international law, and DHS policies – all of which prohibit discriminatory restrictions of freedom of speech and expression.

In some cases, US and Mexican authorities have reportedly collaborated in the unlawful restrictions against human rights defenders on their shared border.

Amnesty International interviewed 23 human rights defenders, who detailed the restrictions they have faced because of their professional activities. Ten of them – five activists, three lawyers, a journalist and a clergy member – were included on a DHS surveillance watch list, as part of a dubious criminal investigation into human smuggling.

They provided similar accounts of how US authorities have used the border region as a criminal dragnet, exploiting their authority to conduct warrantless searches, interrogate travellers about their finances and professional networks, and search their electronic devices – apparently seeking to build criminal cases against them.

‘In recent days, President Trump has threatened to arrest and deport millions of people residing irregularly in the USA, including those whose family members are US citizens. Who will authorities target next with spurious charges of smuggling, simply for seeking to support communities who are under attack?’ said Erika Guevara-Rosas.

‘The Trump administration must immediately end its politically motivated misuse of the criminal justice system and its abuse of powers to search, detain and interrogate human rights defenders at the border. Instead of targeting lawyers, journalists, and activists for trying to stop human rights violations, the government should be listening to them,’ she said.

So far this year, US authorities have criminally prosecuted nine humanitarian volunteers from the organisation No More Deaths/No Más Muertes, for their provision of humanitarian aid to migrants and asylum seekers on the border of Arizona with Mexico, where thousands of people have died over the last two decades.

Among the most serious charges, Dr Scott Warren was prosecuted for alleged crimes of harbouring and conspiracy to transport two migrants, simply for providing them with water, food, and medical assistance in the desert town of Ajo, where he lives. The case ended in a mistrial on 11 June, yet federal prosecutors have still not yet dropped the charges against Dr Warren.

‘Humanitarian volunteers have been saving the lives of migrants and asylum seekers for years, in hostile desert terrain that authorities have weaponised against migrants with deadly effects.

The US government must immediately drop all charges against Dr Warren and adopt and implement exemptions from criminal prosecution in all situations involving the provision of humanitarian aid,’ said Erika Guevara-Rosas.