EL PASO, Texas - Two prominent members of Congress dropped a bombshell accusation after visiting El Paso area border stations on Monday, claiming that agents told migrants in need of water to drink from the toilet. It was an explosive charge that a Border Patrol official would deny hours later.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) initially made the accusation after touring the Customs and Border Protection facility at Hondo Pass. That allegation was later repeated at an afternoon news conference at the Clint border station by Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), who heads the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
"This is CBP on their best behavior, telling people to drink out of a toilet," Ocasio-Cortez told reporters as she departed Hondo Pass for Clint. "And that was with them knowing that a congressional visit was coming." (Watch her remarks in the video player below.)
At the later news conference, Castro said word of the toilet incident surfaced as the Congressional delegation met with 15 to 20 migrant women — mostly mothers separated from their children and held for up to 50 days — at Hondo Pass to discuss conditions at the facility.
"In fact, one of the women said that she was told by an agent to drink out of the toilet" because of a broken sink faucet, he explained, indicating the women were also denied showers for two weeks. "These are the inhumane conditions that folks are facing." (Watch the news conference in the video player below.)
U.S. Border Patrol Chief of Operations Brian Hastings denied the accusations that some immigrants in border detention facilities are forced to drink from toilets.
"Drinking out of the toilet is completely untrue," said Hastings.
Monday's border station visits by the Hispanic caucus were part of an effort "to investigate facilities used to detain immigrants," according to Castro, who said Congress was doing so in an exercise of its Constitutionally-mandated oversight responsibility.