Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Migrant women 'drinking from toilets' in border facilities

12 July 2019, 17:06 | Updated: 12 July 2019, 18:49

Women detained at the US-Mexico border were forced to drink out of toilets when their sinks stopped working, a Congresswoman has said.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, known as AOC, told a Congressional committee that the US border policy is needlessly cruel, after she visited detention centres.

In a passionate speech she said: "When these women tell me that they were put into a cell and 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. I believe the canker sores that I saw in their mouths because they were only allowed to be served un-nutritious food.

"I believe them when they said they were sleeping on concrete floors for two months.

She added: "This is a manufactured crisis, because the cruelty is manufactured. This is a manufactured crisis because there's no need for us to do this."

Donald Trump immediately hit back at the claims, saying Ms Ocasio-Cortez "made that up" and calling it a "phony story".

The House Oversight and Reform Committee is holding hearings after alleged abuses against migrant minors during a period where families were split up at the border.

Mr Trump also said immigration raids targeting people who are in the US illegally will start on Sunday.

He said authorities from Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be focusing on criminals and looking for those he called "bad players".

Asked about whether there would be warnings about the raids, Mr Trump said: "Nothing to be secret about. If the word gets out, it gets out because hundreds of people know about it. It's a major operation. So the word gets out it gets out.

"It starts on Sunday and they're going to take people out and they're going to bring them back to their countries or they're going to take criminals out - put them in prison or put them in prison in the countries they came from. We're focused on criminals as much as we can."

In Congress on Friday, Ms Ocasio-Cortez called for policy change, and said: "What's worse, Mr Chairman, was the fact that there were American flags hanging all over these facilities.

"That children being separated from their parents in front of the American flag, that women were being called these names under an American flag, we cannot allow for this."

More than 100,000 migrants have been trying to get over the border every month since March, which has overwhelmed the federal agencies' ability to keep those seeking access to the US in sanitary conditions.

A group of Democrats visited the stations last week and reported overloaded, fetid facilities, as well as the cases Ms Ocasio-Cortez spoke of in her speech.

Rashida Tlaib, another freshman Congresswoman, said: "We do have a crisis at our border. It is one of morality."

However four Republican representatives blamed the Democrats for the problem.

Chip Roy said the Democrats were using their trip to put on "a show in front of fences and the media" and accused them of "vilifying" border agents.

Last month Congress passed a $4.6bn (£3.6bn) measure to improve border stations and migrants' treatment.

A report last week by the Department of Homeland Security found "serious overcrowding and prolonged detention" of children, families and single adults at the border facilities in Texas' Rio Grande Valley.

It found hundreds of children were being held longer than the 72-hour limit, and faced clothing shortages, and a lack of hot meals, while some adults were detained for a week in a cell so crowded they had to stand.