Government inspectors detail poor conditions and overcrowding at U.S. border station

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. government inspectors reviewing a border station in El Paso, Texas, reported poor conditions for migrants, including overcrowding and a lack of sanitary conditions, NBC News reported on Monday, citing Department of Homeland Security documents.

The department’s internal watchdog in a May 7 visit found more than half of the 756 immigrants being held at the facility were kept outside, and those inside were behind held in cells packed at five times their capacity.

Cells were so crowded — 155 adult males in a contained area meant to hold 35 people — that the men could not lie down and temperatures swelled to more than 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius), the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general found, according to the internal report, NBC said.

Only four showers were available for the migrants at the facility, which was not named, the report said.

The report was obtained by the nonprofit MuckRock through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Conditions at U.S. facilities holding migrants have become a flashpoint in recent weeks after lawyers last month raised the alarm over squalid conditions facing children at another facility near El Paso, Texas. U.S. officials later relocated nearly 250 migrant youths.

At a news conference on Friday, acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan denied the lawyers’ allegations and defended operations at the facility in Clint, Texas, about 25 miles (40 km) south of El Paso.

U.S. lawmakers last week passed a $4.6 billion aid package to address a migrant surge at the U.S.-Mexico border as a wave of Central Americans seek to reach the United States.

Liberal Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives had pushed for the legislation to include additional protections for migrant children, but the bill ultimately passed without them.

President Donald Trump has made cracking down on illegal immigration a cornerstone of his administration, but U.S. officials have said a renewed crush of migrants at the southern border has strained resources.

Representatives for the Department of Homeland Security could not be immediately reached for comment. The department did not respond to NBC’s request for comment, according to the news outlet’s report.

(Writing by Susan Heavey; editing by Jonathan Oatis)