VP POOL REPORT 4 — Donna facility
*From:* “Dawsey, Joshua” <email@example.com>
*Date:* July 12, 2019 at 3:39:52 PM CDT
*Subject:* * VP POOL REPORT 4 — Donna facility *
The VP has now arrived at the McAllen CBP station, where we are waiting for
an open press roundtable. Here’s the pool report from the first stop —
pardon any typos as I wrote on phone in moving van.
The Vice President visited the Donna facility here, a series of large white
tents that are sorted into various rooms that they call pods. A long rented
hallway connect the room.
About 800 people are in the cavernous facility, which officials said had a
capacity of 1,000. The facility was built in May, CPB officials said, to
handle overcrowding. Officials said it was among the nicest facilities
because it was new and relatively clean. Karisch said it was opened
It was chilly in the facility — and most of the detainees were lying on
kindergarten-like napping mats on the floor, covered with a thin
tinfoil-like blanket. It was eerily quiet. The main noises were the
crackling of the blankets and the occasional laugh or wail of a small
child. Snacks were occasionally scattered on the floor. A couple TVs drew
the attention of a few children. A smattering of toys could be seen.
Your pooler was not given the chance to speak to the children or families.
Many of the families will be in the facility 24-72 hours before being
released, with a court date. They will likely go to Catholic Charities,
The first room was the intake facility, where a crowd that appeared to be
more than 100 people were sitting on benches. Most appeared very dirty, and
officials said they were waiting for showers and had been brought in today.
Some of the children were crying and sleeping. The Vice President shook
hands with agents, who were waiting behind computers. He did not talk to
any of the immigrants in the first room.
Clothes, water bottles, Capri suns and diapers were stacked across the wall.
The Vice President, walking around the room, asked Rudy Karisch, the CBP
section chief, if most of the people in the room were seeking asylum.
Karisch said no. “Typically not,” he said. About 25 to 30 percent are,
McAleenan chimed in.
Karisch said most of the detainees now bring children because they know
they will be released if they are with children — with a set court date —
instead of being detained.
Karisch said most were from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Karisch
said the facility was needed because all the other ones were full.
In the second room, small children and their parents were lying on the
floor. Some of the children — all under 8 — were in front of a tv on a
bench watching an animated film in Spanish. Many were eating snacks. There
appeared to be portapotties. An agent was watching over the room in an
elevated tower in the center of the room.
The rooms are separated by women with children, men with children,
unaccompanied children and entire family units.
Pence spoke to the children, who could not understand him. Then McAleenan
and Sen. Mike Lee translated.
Pence asked the children if they had food and were being taken care of.
They all nodded and a couple said “si.” A couple nodded no when asked if
they had a place to “get cleaned up.”
Two of the children told the Vice President they had been walking for two
months and three months to get there respectively.
He then said “god bless you” in English and “gracias” in Spanish.
The Vice President was then shown a large supply closet that was filled
with snacks and supplies. He stayed briefly before moving to another room.
Pence asked officials if the children were given snacks and drinks and food
whenever they asked. McAleenan said yes.
The pool saw small medical cubicles where screenings are done.
The pool was then taken aside because a CBP officer said the Vice President
wanted to be seen walking against the wall of the facility.
The pool was then rushed in back, where Pence was speaking to more children
and their parents in a different room. Both rooms, about the size of a
small basketball gymnasium, were fairly empty. He seemed to speak to adult
immigrants for the first time there — the ones holding children.
He patted one little boy on the back and asked the children if they were
being well taken care of and fed. Sen. Mike Lee sat down and chatted
fluently in Spanish.
The children again said they were being well taken care of and smiled. He
told them he was the Vice President, and they smiled.
Pool was taken outside again to see the staged shot of Pence walking with
senators by the building.
Pence then walked out of the facility, followed by the Republican senators.
He briefly gaggled with reporters in the sweltering heat.
“I couldn’t be more impressed,” he said of the CPB agents. He said every
American would be proud.
“Every family I spoke to said they were being well cared for,” he said,
decrying the “harsh rhetoric” of Democrats.
Pence said the overcrowding demonstrates why immigration laws needed to be
Graham briefly interjected to say that 90 percent of the people in the
facility will not show up for court dates. (Pool note: That is in dispute.
DOJ data has shown it is much lower.)
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