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‘The children wanted to help us’: Lawmaker emotionally recalls note from detained migrants

Posted at 5:01 PM, Jul 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-03 01:26:10-04

Rep. Madeleine Dean became emotional while describing an interaction she had Monday with detained migrant children, saying a group of children “in a cage behind glass” passed a note to her under a door asking, “How can we help you?”

A number of Democratic lawmakers visited two border detention centers in Texas in the days after Congress passed a $4.6 billion bill to send emergency funding to the border last week. Dean appeared on CNN’s “The Lead” on Tuesday and told host Jake Tapper of her experience visiting a migrant detention center in Clint, Texas.

“We tried to shout in and someone shouted in to them we were members of Congress there hoping to help them, hoping to learn, as John Lewis says, but also hoping to help them, and when I actually — I scribbled this note on a piece of paper and held it up to the glass and the guard corrected me. The note simply says, ‘We heart you, we love you’ and the children smiled,” the Pennsylvania Democrat said.

She continued: “You know what they did? They passed a note under the floor — under the door. And we got in trouble. The guard worried we were sending something. The children sent us a note out. And the note said, ‘How can we help you?’ The children wanted to help us.”

“That is inhumanity. Children in a cage behind glass unable to speak to leaders of Congress,” Dean added.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who also toured the facilities, said in a separate interview with CNN that she felt unsafe during her visit, and she wrote in a string of tweets Monday that the facilities were being run with “no accountability.”

“People (are) drinking out of toilets, officers laughing in front of members Congress,” the New York Democrat wrote. “I brought it up to their superiors,” she wrote. “They said ‘officers are under stress & act out sometimes.’ No accountability.”

US Border Patrol Chief of Operations Brian Hastings disputed that description Monday, saying Ocasio-Cortez’s claim of migrants drinking out of toilets was “completely untrue.”

A Department of Homeland Security Inspector General report released Tuesday outlined what it called “dangerous” overcrowding at border detention facilities witnessed during unannounced inspections early last month.

Investigators found that roughly 30% of minors at the inspected facilities in the Rio Grand Valley in Texas were held longer than the 72 hours permitted, according to Border Patrol custody data.

A CNN poll also released Tuesday found that nearly three-quarters of Americans — 74% — say the situation at the US southern border with Mexico is a crisis — though respondents disagree across party lines about the cause.

A majority of Democrats consider it a crisis because of the treatment migrants are receiving as they attempt to cross the border (54%), while most Republicans say they think it’s a crisis because of the number of migrants attempting to enter the country (63%).