'The crisis is real': Mike Pence sees 'tough stuff' and 'compassionate work' at Texas border facilities

With television cameras in tow, Vice President Mike Pence toured a pair of Border Patrol facilities in Texas on Friday, encountering at one the foul odor of cages crowded with men, so many that they lacked the space to lie down.

On his first stop, at a processing center for migrants just outside McAllen,Texas, Pence said he “couldn’t be more impressed” by what he described as “the compassionate work” by Border Patrol agents.

“Every family that I spoke with told me they were being well cared for,” he said.

The other stop, at an outdoor portal at the McAllen Border Station, offered a starkly different picture.

A reporter traveling with Pence described a horrendous stench in the facility and said that nearly 400 men were housed in sweltering cages so crowded it would have been impossible for all of them to lie down. Some of the detainees shouted to reporters that they had been held 40 days or longer and complained that they were hungry.

“This is tough stuff,” Pence said at a news conference later.

“I was not surprised by what I saw,” he said. “I knew we’d see a system that was overwhelmed.”

The trip to the Texas border by Pence and a group of Republican senators comes amid reports of dangerously overcrowded conditions at some facilities detaining migrants who cross the border illegally. At least six migrant children in border facilities have died since December.

Republicans have pushed back on reports that migrants detained in such centers are being held in deplorable and dangerous conditions.

As Pence was touring the facilities, House Democrats back in Washington were holding a hearing on what they said were inhumane conditions they found when they toured another detention facility in Clint, Texas.

Independent investigators for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security visited Border Patrol facilities in western Texas in May and found dozens of migrants packed into spaces so tight that some had to stand on toilets.

After visiting five facilities in June, the inspector general released a report describing dangerously overcrowded conditions.

But the Trump administration and other Republicans have questioned such findings. President Donald Trump said last week that the facilities are “beautifully run.”

Pence said Trump asked him to go to the border – and bring along cameras – so Americans can see for themselves what the facilities are like.

Pence’s first stop was the processing center, an air-conditioned tent complex that opened in early May on the border about 20 miles from McAllen and just yards from an international bridge connecting the United States to Mexico.

The facility is not one of those cited as being chronically overcrowded, but it is where the Homeland Security's inspector general has said migrants are receiving substandard care. About 800 people were being held Friday in the facility, which officials said had a capacity of 1,000.