Ocasio-Cortez Claims Border Patrol Forced Illegal Immigrants to Drink Water From Toilet, Agents Respond

By Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.
July 2, 2019 Updated: July 2, 2019

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has come out of her recent tour at a border patrol detention facility in Texas with a series of new allegations on the treatment of illegal immigrants. Agents have now responded to her claims.

The freshman congresswoman made the allegations in a social media post on July 1 after visiting a facility in El Paso, where she said, “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 added.

Ocasio-Cortez was part of a group of Democratic lawmakers who were visiting several Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) stations at the southern border in the wake of reports that at least 250 children were detained in dirty and overcrowded conditions with inadequate food and lack of medical care at the Clint border facility, reported The Hill. Most of the children have since been relocated to children’s shelters.

During the visit, Ocasio-Cortez posted various claims about what she had seen and heard inside the facility.

“Now I’ve seen the inside of these facilities. It’s not just the kids. It’s everyone. People drinking out of toilets, officers laughing in front of members Congress,” she said. “I brought it up to their superiors. They said ‘officers are under stress & act out sometimes.’ No accountability.”

In another post, she said she had forced herself into a cell holding women and began talking to them.

“[O]ne of them described their treatment at the hands of officers as “psychological warfare”—waking them at odd hours for no reason, calling them [expletive], etc,” she wrote. “Tell me what about that is due to a ‘lack of funding?'”

Responding to Ocasio-Cortez’s accusations, multiple CBP officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, who spoke to Mail Online and Washington Examiner have denied the congresswoman’s claims.

“No one is drinking toilet water. They’re drinking potable water from the sink attached to the toilet. It’s what you would find in every municipal jail in the United States,” a CBP official told Mail Online.

Mail Online’s political editor David Martosko, who reported on the story, posted a photo of the sink attached to the toilet from a facility in Tuscon.

“I haven’t seen photo of the Clint, TX facilities that @AOC described today, but it would be interesting if “drinking from the toilet” meant drinking from an attached sink marked “potable water” — like this image from a CBP holding facility in Tuscon (filed in federal court),” he wrote, while asking for confirmation.

Ocasio-Cortez responded to Martosko’s post, confirming that it was indeed the same type of toilet sink but claimed that they weren’t functioning at the facility she visited earlier.

“This was in fact the type of toilet we saw in the cell. Except there was just one, and the sink portion was not functioning – smartly tried to open the faucet, and nothing came out. So the women were told they could drink out of the bowl,” she wrote.

Similarly, Washington Examiner also published a statement from a border agent who denied the claims made by Ocasio-Cortez.

“So this is what happened with the migrant and drinking water from toilet: she wanted water, didn’t know how to use the faucet in the cell, and drank from the toilet. She never told AOC that we made her drink from the toilet. AOC, of course, changed it … This was when she [the migrant] was apprehended and brought into the facility,” the agent told the news outlet.

Washington Examiner’s Anna Giaritelli also reported, while citing anonymous witnesses, that Ocasio-Cortez had allegedly yelled at border agents “in a threatening manner” during the visit at the El Paso facility. The report also said Ocasio-Cortez refused to tour the facility with the other Democratic lawmakers and instead opted to sit with a family inside the facility.

“She comes out screaming at our agents, right at the beginning [of the tour] … Crying and screaming and yelling,” said one witness said, reported the news outlet.

“The agents, they wanted to respond, but they held back because she’s a congressional delegate. But when you have someone yelling at you in a threatening manner … ” the same witness said. “They were like, ‘Hey, you need to kinda step back.’”

Fox News anchor Maria Bartiromo replied to Giaritelli’s post, saying that her sources have also confirmed the account.

Meanwhile, another reporter Jonathan M. Katz provided his own account of the tour, denying Washington Examiner’s claims.

“I’ve been outside all the facilities she’s touring today around El Paso, and according to everything I’ve seen the part about her leaving the tour is a lie. was inside each one for the maximum amount of time—first one in, last one out,” Katz wrote in reply to Giaritelli’s post.

Ocasio-Cortez seemingly responded to the Washington Examiner report in a Twitter post on July 2. She said: “And to these CBP officers saying they felt “threatened” by me –
They were literally discussing making a GoFundMe for an officer who attacked my [sic] on my tour. They confiscated my phone, and they were all armed. I’m 5’4”. They’re just upset I exposed their inhumane behavior.”

This comes after a report by ProPublica surfaced about a secret Facebook group where around 9,500 members, some allegedly current and former CBP employees, were reportedly sharing derogatory comments and vulgar images about illegal immigrants and congressional lawmakers, including Ocasio-Cortez.

The CBP officials responded to the report on July 1 saying that the DHS Office of the Inspector General has initiated an investigation.

“Today, U.S. Customs and Border Protection was made aware of disturbing social media activity hosted on a private Facebook group that may include a number of CBP employees. CBP immediately informed DHS Office of the Inspector General and initiated an investigation. CBP employees are expected to adhere to CBP’s Standards of Conduct, Directive No. 51735-013A both on and off duty, which states, ‘Employees will not make abusive, derisive, profane, or harassing statements or gestures, or engage in any other conduct evidencing hatred or invidious prejudice to or about one person or group on account of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age or disability. This includes comments and posts made on private social media sites,'” Matthew Klein, Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Professional Responsibility, said.

Meanwhile, Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost said in the statement, “These posts are completely inappropriate and contrary to the honor and integrity I see—and expect—from our agents day in and day out. Any employees found to have violated our standards of conduct will be held accountable.”

Ocasio-Cortez also responded to the report, accusing the agency of “violent culture.”

“This isn’t about “a few bad eggs.” This is a violent culture,” she wrote on July 1.

The Democratic congresswoman was previously under fire for her controversial comments where she compared border facilities to “concentration camps” in an Instagram video in June while adding the phrase “never again,” a term synonymous with crimes committed by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany during World War II. Despite the backlash, the freshman congresswoman has refused to apologize for her remarks and instead doubled down on her comments as she hit back at her critics.

Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.