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- Democratic U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro reiterated his call to the Biden campaign to commit to appointing immigration officials that can "undo the damage" done under Trump's watch.
U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio; Sylvia Garcia D-Houston; and Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, spent the morning touring the two sites operated on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement by private prison firms Geo Group and CoreCivic.
The lawmakers said infants as young as 12 months old are being held in prison-like conditions with inadequate protections from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The conditions are terrible for these folks,” Castro said on a video press conference with reporters. “Geo Group, CoreCivic, ICE are doing a disservice for their employees by not taking proper medical precautions.”
The congressman described the interior of the detention centers as petri dishes of disease. Due to a lack of coronavirus testing and limited medical care, many held at the centers face a high risk of infection and even death, he added.
“There were multiple children who are 1, 2 years old. These are vulnerable folks," Castro said. "We asked ICE to release these people, because they have family waiting for them. … We met with a woman and her 7-year-old son, who has been there almost 300 days in Dilley. She talked about the mental damage of her son [due to prolonged imprisonment].”
Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia echoed Castro’s assessment.
“The masks and the enforcement of the masks just started last week in anticipation of our arrival,” Garcia said. “It looked like window-dressing for our visit.”
The congresswoman is concerned that ICE detention centers aren't testing everyone who enters or is being detained there. COVID-19 cases in Pearsall make up 90% of all infections in Frio County, she added, which puts the whole county at risk.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Garcia said. “We have seen 15 of these centers. I can’t figure out why these children are here. I’m on the record to close down every detention center we can.”
Castro reiterated his call for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden to appoint a tough reformer to correct problems with immigrant detention centers, adding that they won’t fix themselves.
“ICE barely lifts a finger to make sure these people are safe,” Castro said.
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