Current and former immigration officials pushed back Tuesday at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's high-profile accusations of cruel treatment at an El Paso border station, rejecting her claim that agents forced detainees to “drink out of the toilets” and insisting that their personnel “don’t treat people that way.”
Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., traveled to the border on Monday with almost a dozen members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, as she blasted border officials as “violent” and “inhumane” -- while claiming agents forced migrant women and children being detained in cells to drink toilet water.
“They are not drinking out of the toilet—no Border Patrol agent is going to make anyone drink out of the toilet,” former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director Tom Homan said on Fox News' “America’s Newsroom” Tuesday. “It’s just ridiculous on its face.”
Homan alleged that Ocasio-Cortez was “clearly, intentionally misinforming the American public.”
“She’s lost all credibility,” he said.
Homan suggested she was simply referring to the “apparatus” in holding cells that has an attached sink and toilet, but two separate water lines.
“You’re drinking out of the same apparatus, the same piece of equipment, but there are two separate water lines—one going to the commode, one going to the sink,” Homan explained. “... [T]hey are designed that way to try to save space and make it more comfortable for the people who are in those facilities.”
Images of that "apparatus" were circulating on social media as Ocasio-Cortez critics challenged her account.
Ocasio-Cortez, though, maintained that while she did see the combination toilet-sink facilities, the station had only one of them, and the sink portion wasn't working.
“So the women were told they could drink out of the bowl,” she tweeted.
Homan acknowledged that the facilities “are jails” and “were not built for women and children,” saying that's why agents have been "begging" Congress for more funding for beds "so these families can be moved into a proper facility with proper care.”
Former acting ICE director Ron Vitiello also pushed back on Ocasio-Cortez’s claims.
“I have never seen anything like that,” Vitiello said on “Fox & Friends.” “And look, she was there for three minutes and now she’s an expert on what this facility looks like?”
Brian Hastings, chief of law enforcement operations at U.S. Border Patrol, similarly defended the agents.
“We don’t treat people that way. We provide fresh water. We provide food. We provide sanitary items as well as items for bathing and personal hygiene,” Hastings said on Fox News' “The Story” Monday night.
But a Department of Homeland Security official told Fox News on Tuesday that CBP agents “are not equipped for the sheer volume of people” in facilities.
“HHS is backed up with children, so there is a real backlog at the CBP facilities there,” the official explained. “It’s a real problem. The supplemental funding will help, but it’s a band-aid on a much bigger problem.”
The official was referring to a recently passed funding bill for the crisis at the border.
Ocasio-Cortez first tweeted about the conditions at the facilities on Monday.
“Just left the 1 st CBP facility. I see why CBP officers were being so physically & sexually threatening towards me. Officers were keeping women in cells w/ no water & had told them to drink out of the toilets. This was them on their GOOD behavior in front of members of Congress,” she tweeted Monday.
The visit to the border station has been the subject of fierce controversy. Not only are Democratic lawmakers and immigration officials at odds over Ocasio-Cortez's claims about the conditions, but witnesses told The Washington Examiner that the lawmaker was "screaming" at the agents and behaving in a "threatening" manner.
Ocasio-Cortez, seemingly in response to the report, tweeted: "They confiscated my phone, and they were all armed. I’m 5’4”. They’re just upset I exposed their inhumane behavior."
Ocasio-Cortez’s visit and allegations came after the discovery of a secret Facebook group where Border Patrol agents allegedly posted vulgar jokes and images about her, as well as illegal immigrants.
The website ProPublica posted the story Monday headlined “Inside the Secret Border Patrol Facebook Group Where Agents Joke About Migrant Deaths and Post Sexist Memes.”
In one post reported by ProPublica, a group member referenced the visits by Democrats and encouraged an officer to throw a “burrito at these b-----s.” Other posts included a vile, fake photo illustration of Ocasio-Cortez engaged in oral sex with President Trump.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection condemned the posts.
“These posts are completely inappropriate and contrary to the honor and integrity I see—and expect—from our agents day in and day out," U.S. Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost said in a statement to Fox News. "Any employees found to have violated our standards of conduct will be held accountable.”
Ocasio-Cortez has since cited the Facebook group and her visit in railing against the agency, which she described as "rogue."
“They’re threatening violence on members of Congress,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “How do you think they’re treating caged children+families?”
Fox News' Alex Pappas contributed to this report.