After touring two federal immigrant detention facilities in Texas on Monday and finding horrific living conditions and rampant abuses of power by Border Patrol officers, Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and other members of Congress held a press conference detailing their experiences and vowing to continue fighting for an end to the Trump administration's widespread mistreatment of migrants.
"This is about the preservation of our humanity. And this is about seeing every person there as a member of your own family."
—Rep. Ayanna Pressley
Forced to shout over racist slurs from pro-Trump hecklers gathered at the press conference in Clint, Texas, Tlaib said, "I will outwork your hate. I will out-love your hate."
"What we saw today, what we did today, is try to bring the eyes, the ears that you all can't have when we go into these facilities," said the congresswoman from Michigan.
In a tweet following the press conference, Tlaib wrote, "Even through the hateful slurs, I won't back down. We went in there to be the eyes for the American people, to tell the truth about what is happening with children and families at the border. This system is broken and throwing money at it won't work."
The Trumpist protesters were trying their best to pretend they were pro-immigrant and diversity, but their mask disintegrated when @RashidaTlaib spoke.
They yelled about how much they loved pork. When she said she loved her country, they called her a foreigner. pic.twitter.com/4gdljhS8Ty
— Jonathan M. Katz (@KatzOnEarth) July 1, 2019
Pressley, a congresswoman from Massachusetts, also endured shouting from pro-Trump demonstrators, which she denounced as "vile rhetoric for vile actions."
"This is about the preservation of our humanity," Pressley said of the fight for justice for those swept up in the Trump administration's cruel anti-immigrant dragnet. "And this is about seeing every person there as a member of your own family. I am tired of the health and the safety, the humanity, and the full freedoms of black and brown children being negotiated, and compromised, and moderated. We need a system that works, that is humane, and that is compassionate, and that keeps families together."
"I learned a long time ago that when change happens, it's either because people see the light or they feel the fire," Pressley continued. "Today, we're lifting up these stories in the hopes that you will see the light. And if you don't, we will bring the fire."
Rep. Ayanna Pressley: "I learned a long time ago that when change happens it's either because people see the light or they feel the fire.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) July 1, 2019
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The press conference came after lawmakers entered two Texas detention facilities and spoke to migrants directly, rejecting attempts by officers to take them on "staged" tours of the facilities.
As Common Dreams reported Monday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) live-tweeted her experiences at the detention centers, where she said women faced constant abuse from Border Patrol officials and were forced to drink out of toilets.
Other lawmakers offered similar accounts of conditions inside the facilities. Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) said the El Paso facility lawmakers toured was "appalling" and "disgusting."
"We talked to a group of women detainees who said that they didn't have running water," said Chu. "One was an epileptic and she couldn't get her medication. They were separated from their children. They'd been there over 50 days."
"If you want water, just drink from a toilet." That's what border patrol told one thirsty woman we met on today's #DemsAtTheBorder trip. These are the same CBP personnel who threatened to throw burritos at members of Congress. Changes must be made. #DontLookAway pic.twitter.com/dW34DRduDA
— Judy Chu (@RepJudyChu) July 1, 2019
The tours, organized by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, came just days after the Democratic leadership caved to Republicans and so-called "moderate" Democrats by passing a $4.6 billion Senate border funding bill that contained virtually no safeguards for immigrant children detained by the Trump administration.
Ocasio-Cortez, who slammed her party's leadership for capitulating to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), wrote Monday that, "After I forced myself into a cell with women and began speaking to them, one of them described their treatment at the hands of officers as 'psychological warfare'—waking them at odd hours for no reason, calling them wh*res, etc."
"Tell me," said Ocasio-Cortez, "what about that is due to a 'lack of funding'?"
Building on Democratic lawmakers' efforts to shed light on the conditions inside the Trump administration's detention facilities, a coalition of progressive advocacy groups on Tuesday is planning to hold protests at local congressional offices nationwide to demand and end to the abuse of immigrant families.
"We've seen the images and heard the stories coming out of child detention centers," wrote the coalition, led by MoveOn.org, United We Dream, and Families Belong Together. "They are the byproduct of an intentional strategy by the Trump administration to terrorize immigrant communities and criminalize immigration."
"It's going to take all of us to close the camps," the groups wrote.