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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is exposing the suffering of migrant women, and we can’t look away

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Christobel Hastings
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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez visits migrant women at a detention facility in Texas to investigate conditions

As the row over migrant suffering along the Southern border wages on, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has described how women detained at a US Customs and Border Protection facility in Texas are being forced to drink water from toilets. 

The suffering of migrants along the US Southern border gained the world’s attention last week after heartbreaking images emerged of a father, named as Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria, were pictured drowned in the Rio Grande river in Mexico after attempting to reach Texas.  

After visiting a US Customs and Border Protection facility in Texas, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has has ensured the migrant crisis stays firmly in the spotlight, by revealing that migrant women have been subjected to “appalling” conditions and behaviour at the hands of Border Patrol agents.

The New York Congresswoman, who was part of a delegation of more than a dozen congressional Democrats visiting the CBP detention facility in El Paso, Texas, claimed that migrant women at the detention centre were being forced to endure horrendous living conditions, and even forced to drink water from toilets.

“I see why CBP officers were being so physically & sexually threatening towards me,” the lawmaker began in a series of tweets. “Officers were keeping women in cells with no water & had told them to drink out of toilets,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez said.

“This was them on their GOOD behaviour in front of members of Congress,” she added.

Ocasio-Cortez went on to detail how, after forcing her way into one of the cells, detainees had explained how they had also been intimidated by “physically & sexually threatening” behaviour from Border Patrol agents.

“After I forced myself into a cell with women & began speaking to them, one of them described their treatment at the hands of officers as ‘psychological warfare’ - waking them at odd hours for no reason, calling them wh*res, etc. Tell me what about that is due to a ‘lack of funding?’”

“This has been horrifying so far,” she continued. “It is hard to understate the enormity of the problem. We’re talking systemic cruelty [with] a dehumanising culture that treats them like animals.”

Representative Judy Chu of California, also corroborated the conditions inside the detention centre. “‘If you want water, just drink from a toilet.’ That’s what border patrol told one thirsty woman we met on today’s #DemsAtTheBorder trip,” Chu tweeted.

Meanwhile Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, who also attended the visit, recounted that the living conditions had reason to be called human right abuses.

“Just left the first CBP facility. The conditions are far worse than we ever could have imagined.

“15 women in their 50s-60s sleeping in a small concrete cell, no running water. Weeks without showers. All of them separated from their families.

“This is a human rights crisis.”

Ocasio-Cortez wrote that she feared for the welfare of the migrant women after the trip, some of whom had reportedly gone fifteen days without a shower and denied life-saving medication, who had bravely exposed the inhumane behaviour. 

“What’s haunting is that the women I met with today told me in no uncertain terms that they would experience retribution for telling us what they shared.

“They all began sobbing - out of fear of being punished, out of sickness, out of desperation, lack of sleep, trauma, despair.”

Ocasio-Cortez is now heading to Clint, Texas, to visit one of the children’s detention centres that sparked outrage after it emerged that the Trump administration were denying children access to basic toiletries such as toothpaste and soap.

Image: Getty

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Christobel Hastings

Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.

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