Sen. Jeff Merkley upended the immigration debate earlier this month after he visited a border detention facility in Texas and described maltreated children stowed in dog kennels, subjected to “trauma” by the federal government.
But a court-appointed compliance monitor visited the same facility weeks earlier and gave a much different portrayal, describing children snacking on apples, drinking milk and bottled water, and sitting around watching movies on television.
Far from trauma, the children said they got showers, brushed their teeth, got a change of clothes and were able to get some sleep on bed mats. They had a chance to call relatives, to speak with consular officials from their home countries, and to take needed medications.
And while some of them complained about the temperature in the holding rooms, but the compliance officer said it was a steady 72.5 degrees, which is within the range allowed by the judge.
Henry A. Moak Jr., the chief accountability officer for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said during his April visit he even tried the water from the five-gallon jugs, used an infrared thermometer to take the temperature, and peeked into the laundry facilities to see the children’s own clothes being washed.
“I also observed several televisions throughout the facility to provide entertainment for the minors. When I first arrived, I saw several minors watching a movie,” he said in a report to Judge Dolly M. Gee, who ordered regular checks to determine whether the government is providing adequate care to the children detained by Homeland Security.
Mr. Moak’s conclusion: They are.
His report, filed with Judge Gee on June 1, stands in stark contrast to what Mr. Merkley saw when he visited the same facility two days later, describing overcrowded conditions he said amounted to treating the children like animals.
“I witnessed something that is now seared into my mind: a large warehouse facility with cells constructed of fence posts and chain link fencing — like dog kennels or large cages,” the senator said in an email written for a liberal pressure group this week....Mr. Merkley saw the food and water, the showers, clean clothes and sanitary supplies, arranged on shelves around the outside of the massive warehouse-style facility.But he was struck by the chain-link fencing that divided the warehouse into cells, with the fencing even covering the ceilings and a concrete floor below. Children slept on pads with mylar blankets.In one telling detail the children’s shoelaces had been taken away. Some of them had torn the mylar blankets into strips and tried to turn those into laces.The treatment of the children is a heated topic of debate right now, as the government faces a new surge of what authorities call “Unaccompanied Alien Children,” or UAC — juveniles who arrive at the border without parents.Border Patrol agents nabbed more than 6,400 UAC in