WASHINGTON (CN) – The conditions at immigrant jails are so heinous, the stench from unwashed children caked in urine, vomit and rancid breast milk so foul, it was hard for adults sent to interview them to sit close as they spoke.
One 6-year-boy old sobbed for nearly an hour straight as Elora Mukherjee, a clinical professor of law at Columbia Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, sat with him for an interview. It was one of 70 Mukherjee would conduct at a facility in Clint, Texas, this year.
“I want to share with you what I heard, saw and smelled,” Mukherjee said Friday, testifying before the House Oversight Committee.
Children could not wash their hands with soap because none was available, she said, her voice cracking. They wore the same clothes on them when they crossed the border and were not able to change underwear. Children were traumatized, hungry and constantly crying. Others, as young as 8 years old, were forced to care for the younger ones.
A guard would come into a cell with a small child in tow, and ask: “Who is going to care for this one?” Mukherjee told lawmakers.
“One 6-year-old girl, detained all alone could only say: ‘I’m scared. I’m scared. I’m scared,’ over and over again,” the professor said. “She could not even tell me her name.”
In addition to Mukherjee, Democrat and Republican lawmakers also testified at today’s hearing, as did inspector generals for the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services.
“We use the word inhumane for a reason,” Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said Friday. “Separating children from their mothers and fathers causes damage that may endure for a lifetime. Let that sink in. In other words, until they die.”
Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Veronica Escobar of Texas visited the same facility Mukherjee did on July 1.
In a word, what they witnessed was “haunting,” Tlaib said Friday, crying through her testimony. Representative Pressley told the committee she would never forget what she witnessed or heard.
One woman asked her: Do I deserve to be treated like a dog?
“Yet on that concrete floor, many women still had a deep abiding love for this country,” Pressley said. “A country they had only come to know first as their captor.”
The Democrats say their visit to the facility in Clint this month showed systemic abuse and human rights violations. Ocasio-Cortez described treatment by border patrol agents as “psychological warfare.”
Guards referred to the detained women as “whores,” and all of this done under the dozens of American flags hung throughout the center, Ocasio-Cortez said.