Hundreds of families of asylum-seekers are no longer being detained in an enclosure beneath an El Paso, Texas, bridge, according to The New York Times.
Following public outcry, officials have moved processing for some migrants to a site on the other side of the bridge near a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility, according to the newspaper. CBP said on Sunday that the agency is in the process of transferring all the migrants temporarily held in the enclosure to a northeast El Paso processing station.
Last week, the agency said overcrowding at processing stations and a surge in Central American asylum applicants had left it with no choice but to detain migrants outdoors. CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said last week that the surge in border crossings had forced the immigration system to a “breaking point.” President TrumpDonald TrumpHarris stumps for McAuliffe in Virginia On The Money — Sussing out what Sinema wants Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — The Facebook Oversight Board is not pleased MORE has threatened to shut down the southern border entirely unless the Mexican government “does something.”
Immigrant advocacy groups have pushed back against the contention that officials had no other option, according to the Times.
“If they wanted to prepare for this, they could have done so,” Fernando Garcia, director of the Border Network for Human Rights, told the Times organization in El Paso. “The administration could have redirected resources, assigned more asylum agents, looked at what was happening on the ground.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had called the outdoor detention conditions an “unprecedented and extreme violation,” according to the Times, and said detained families under the bridge had reported being verbally and physically abused by agents, including sleep deprivation and lack of food or water.
“We are demanding an immediate investigation by the inspector general into abuses inflicted on asylum seekers by Border Patrol agents in the outdoor facilities,” said Shaw Drake, policy counsel for the ACLU’s border rights center, according to the Times.