Four Democratic congresswomen shared harrowing accounts about conditions facing migrant detainees at the southern border before a House panel Friday, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who took the unusual step of asking to be sworn in before testifying after Republicans challenged her report of the horrors.
After raising her hand before the House Oversight and Reform Committee and swearing to tell the truth and nothing but, Ocasio-Cortez made an impassioned plea for an end to what she called the “manufactured” cruelty detainees are subjected to, CBS News reports.
“It is unnecessary to separate children from their families,” the New York progressive told House members. “The cruelty is manufactured. This is a manufactured crisis because there is no need for us to do this.”
She then provided the names of 17 women she visited at detention facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border, and told her fellow lawmakers she believed the women when they told her they had been forced to drink from toilets, according to CBS.
“When these women tell me that they were put into a cell and that their sink was not working, and we tested the sink ourselves, and the sink was not working. And they were told to drink out of a toilet bowl. I believe them. I believe these women,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Ocasio-Cortez was joined in testifying about conditions at the border by Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) on the Democratic side, and for the Republicans, Arizona Reps. Debbie Lesko and Andy Biggs and Texas Reps. Michael Cloud and Chip Roy.
The Democrats told of heartbreak and horror witnessed during a recent visit to a border facility in Clint, Texas.
Their voices breaking at time and seemingly near tears, Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib provided riveting testimony of the damage being done at the border to children and families.
“What was worst about this was the fact that there were American flags hanging all over these facilities, that children were being separated from their parents in front of the American flag,” [Ocasio-Cortez] said.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., was near tears as she displayed a picture of what she said was a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl — the same age as her son — who died in U.S. custody. She blamed harsh policies “intentionally and cruelly created by a Trump administration dead set on sending a hate-filled message that those seeking refuge are not welcome in America.”
Tlaib added, “It’s a dangerous ideology that rules our nation right now.”
Alternatively, Republicans testifying before the committee blamed Democrats for conditions at the border, saying Dems had been too soft when it came to immigration laws. Texas’ Roy basically called the Democratic lawmakers’ trip to the border and subsequent reports a stunt for the ‘gram.
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, mocked Democrats’ trip to the border, accusing them of standing “next to an empty parking lot while making up hyperbole for clips, Twitter followers and cynical politics.” Ocasio-Cortez has 4.7 million Twitter followers.
He said by not toughening immigration laws, House Democrats have “created the very magnet” that attracts migrants to the U.S. and said the chamber “cowardly sits in the corner, doing nothing” to address the problems that result.
Another Republican, Arizona’s Lesko, basically called Ocasio-Cortez a liar.
“This whole issue of drinking out of the toilet is wrong. No one is being asked to drink out of the toilet,” Lesko said, according to CBS.
It wasn’t clear what justification Lesko had for making such a blanket statement.
Massachusetts’ Pressley perhaps summed things up best by making a plea for compassion, saying, as the AP reports, that “federal treatment of migrants has ‘exceeded a level of degradation we should be ashamed is occurring on American soil.’”