Recently, I had the opportunity to visit southeast Texas and see firsthand the humanitarian crisis taking place at the U.S. - Mexico Border. What I witnessed was unnerving: refugees, migrants and asylum-seekers held in dangerous and inhumane conditions.
- Dozens of people locked up — for weeks — in cells meant to hold less than ten detainees for only 72 hours.
- Hundreds of migrants caged in chain-linked pens without enough space for everyone to sleep (on the floor) at the same time.
- Bright overhead lights, bearing down on detainees 24/7.
- Women and children crammed into holding pens without regular access to toothbrushes, showers and other basic necessities.
- Severe overcrowding that's created a breeding ground for disease and sickness.
This humanitarian crisis in facilities across the border is a creature of the Trump Administration's own making. The President's zero tolerance policy makes no distinction between low-risk asylum seekers — families escaping persecution and life-threatening conditions in their home countries — and hardened criminals. Instead of diverting families and unaccompanied minors into alternative care and management settings, the Administration chooses to lock them up in detention facilities that are unable to accommodate them. The results have been disastrous.
Thankfully, on my trip to Texas, I also had the opportunity to visit the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center led by Sister Norma in McAllen. This is a refuge where migrant families who finally have been released from detention can get a warm shower, a good meal and a night's rest before catching buses to sponsor families. It was an inspirational place that gives me hope and makes me more determined than ever to fix our broken immigration system and demand more humane conditions for those being detained.