(CNSNews.com) – Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan is disputing reports of inadequate food, water, and sanitation at the Clint, Texas, CBP station.
He told ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopolous” on Sunday that he called the allegations unsubstantiated “because there’s adequate food and water, because the facility’s cleaned every day, because I know what our standards are, and I know they're being followed, because we have tremendous levels of oversight. Five levels of oversight.”
“’The stench of children's dirty clothing was so strong it spread to the agent,’ they had scabies, chickenpox. Why did you say unsubstantiated?” ABC’s Martha Raddatz asked.
“You just referenced three things that were unsubstantiated: inadequate food, inadequate water and unclean cells. None of those have been substantiated. What I have an office of professional responsibility, independent office that oversees our operations report who went to Clint station in the same time period,” McAleenan said.
“Do you still think they're unsubstantiated, given the New York Times and the El Paso Times report, these specific allegations?” Raddatz asked.
“So I don’t know which specific allegations you’re referencing, but let’s be very clear, Martha. This is an extraordinarily challenging situation. We had an overflow situation with hundreds of children crossing every day,”McAleenan said.
“That’s why we were asking for funding for Health and Human Services, to provide adequate bed space so those children could be moved from that immediate border processing into a more appropriate setting for children. So I’m not denying that there are challenging situations at the border. I’ve been the one talking about it the most,” he said.
“What I can tell you right now is that there's adequate food, water and that the reason those children were at Clint station in the first place is so they could have medical consolidated. They had shower facilities for over a year. There’s been showers there. So this is why we tried to provide a better situation for the brief time they’re supposed to spend at the border,” McAleenan added.
“The New York Times says that the agency's leadership knew for months that some children had no beds to sleep on, no way to clean themselves and sometimes went hungry, its own agents had raised the alarm, according to the story. Did you know anything?” Raddatz asked.
McAleenan said there’s “no evidence that children went hungry.”
“Police station cells are not a good place for children, as I’ve said dozens of times publicly,” he said.
“Had agents raised alarms that you had heard about?” Raddatz asked.
“Of course we’re worried about it. Everyone in the entire chain of command was worried about the situation for children. That's why we’ve built soft-sided facilities, 1,000 spaces already. We’re building more that are going to be opening next week,” McAleenan said.
“We're trying to provide as much space and as much nice a setting as we possibly can while children are in our custody, but the big point was to move them to HHS,” the acting secretary said.
“Let me give you an update on that. On June 1st, we had 2,500 children in our custody. One-thousand two hundred had been with us over three days. Now that we have the supplemental from Congress, HHS has additional beds. We only have 350 as of yesterday afternoon’s report and only 20 of those children have been with us more than three days. So that's huge improvement based on the resources we asked for from Congress and were finally given,” he said.
“Should the president have used his authorities pursuant to the declared national emergency to redirect funds to address the conditions at the border more quickly?” Raddatz asked.
“So the declared national emergency does not apply to this scenario. This was a matter -- we had already taken action as soon as we could at the border to provide additional medical care, additional transportation, additional facilities within our exiting funding,” McAleenan said.
“We were going to have to reprogram it from other Homeland Security priorities, but we did that, and now that Congress has finally come through with the funding, we have been able to apply it expeditiously, because those contracts were in place and underway,” he said.