Undocumented immigrant families held at a detention center in Texas protest their living conditions while members of Congress tour the facility.
WASHINGTON — Hoisting makeshift protest signs and chanting "Libertad," hundreds of undocumented immigrant mothers and and their children protested their living conditions in a detention center in Dilley, Texas, during a tour of the facility Monday by members of Congress, according to cell phone video obtained by BuzzFeed News.
The video, taken by one of the members of Congress, shows the women and children being held in the facility chanting as the delegation of lawmakers walks toward them. Demonstrators can also be seen holding up crudely written protest signs made from pillowcases and bedsheets.
According to a source present at the protest, lawmakers — who were being taken on a tour of the facility — approached the demonstrators and discussed living conditions in the facility.
The South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley is one of several privately operated prisons being used by the Department of Homeland Security to house the thousands of immigrant children and families that flooded the southern border last year.
Lawmakers on the trip included Reps. Joaquin Castro, Judy Chu, Raul Grijalva, Luis Gutierrez, Sheila Jackson Lee, Zoe Lofgren, and Lucille Roybal-Allard.
Human rights activists and attorneys representing immigrants detained at Dilley and similar facilities have complained not only about living conditions in the prisons, but also their often remote locations, which makes obtaining competent legal counsel extremely difficult.
Following a Monday visit to a similar facility in Karnes, Texas, the lawmakers called for the closure of the family detention centers. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, the second ranking Democrat in the House, also attended the Karnes trip.
"What I saw today did nothing but confirm my belief walking through the door that we should end the jailing of women and children in these proceedings. It is by its nature punitive, whether it is intended to be or not," Lofgren said, the San Antonio Currant reported Tuesday morning.
A source said the lawmakers will meet with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Tuesday night to discuss their visit.
John Stanton is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New Orleans. In 2014, Stanton was a recipient of the National Press Foundation’s 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting of Congress.
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