A delegation of Hispanic pastors, led by the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, toured a detention facility in El Paso, Texas, last week, and what they saw was “drastically different” from the media’s portrayal of the situation along the country’s southern border.
Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, told reporters Monday he “was shocked at the misinformation of the crisis at the border.”
He told Faithwire via email Tuesday he is “totally baffled by the reports of politicians who visited exactly where I visited and saw exactly what I saw.”
Rodriguez said he and his fellow pastors from the NHCLC had full access to the facility for at least one hour.
“What did our visit reveal? We found no soiled diapers, no deplorable conditions, and no lack of basic necessities,” he added, according to a press release.
Rodriguez said Border Patrol agents “unequivocally denied” they had made any changes to tidy up the facility before the delegation arrived, claiming the space they showed them was in the same condition when a group of attorneys toured it a few days earlier.
The pastor told the Religion News Service the detention center seemed like a “summer camp environment,” in which the migrant children had access to TV and snacks and enjoyed friendly relationships with the guards on duty.
Rodriguez is not the first Christian leader to push back against the media’s characterization of the situation along the U.S.-Mexico border. During an interview with Faithwire last week, Prestonwood en Español Pastor Gilberto Corredera said border agents have good relationships with the children, often spending their own money to buy food and water for them.
“They have families, they have feelings,” Corredera, who has toured detention centers on the border, said of the Border Patrol agents. “I saw them so compassionate about it, so concerned about it, heartbroken for [unaccompanied migrant kids].”
The situation, he added, is “not as simple as maybe the news wants to make it.”
Dr. James Dobson, a Christian author and the founder of Focus on the Family, was also invited by the White House to tour a detention facility in McAllen, Texas, last week.
He said many in the media “have not been truthful about what is going on there,” admitting there are major issues, but placing the blame on Congress for its inaction.
Rodriguez shared some of Dobson’s sentiments, saying the situation along the border is “a problem only Congress can really solve.”
These reports come around the same time Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) toured a migrant detention facility in El Paso. The 29-year-old politician claimed there “is abuse in these facilities.”
“This was them on their best behavior, and they put [migrants] in a room with no running water,” she claimed. “These women were being told by CBP officers to drink out of the toilet. They were drinking water out of the toilet and that was them knowing a congressional visit was coming. This is CBP on their best behavior, telling people to drink out of the toilet.”
But when a reporter asked Ocasio-Cortez if she actually witnessed what she described happening, the lawmaker rolled up her window and the vehicle drove away.
An unnamed border agent who spoke to The Washington Examiner said the woman Ocasio-Cortez saw “didn’t know how to use the faucet in the cell, and drank from the toilet,” but was never told to do so.
As he continues to call for reform, Rodriguez also revealed this week the NHCLC plans to launch a campaign — “For His Children” — to offer aid to immigrant children held in detention centers at the border. He said the initiative will send supplies, like clothes, water, and hygiene products, to the southern border.
He also told the Religion News Service the group may in the future provide shelter and foster care to migrant children crossing into the U.S.
“It is the job of the government to decide who gets in their country,” Rodriguez explained. “It is the joy of the church to serve those who do.”
The pastor is also urging the government to take swift action, calling on Democrats and Republicans to work together to solve this ongoing crisis.
“What’s heart-wrenching is that we have both Republicans and Democrats alike in Congress who can’t come together for the purpose of doing the right thing and finding a solution to our immigration crisis,” he said.
“Please, President Trump, please White House, work with the Republicans and the Democrats [and] please, please, please, please, Nancy Pelosi, Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, please come together to solve this crisis, immediately,” he added.