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WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro has no regrets for going rogue on Trump administration officials.
On Monday, the San Antonio Democrat released videos and photos of a Congressional delegation's tour of an El Paso detention facility that drew more attention to the treatment of migrants detained at the U.S. border. In order to record the images and footage, Castro ignored directives from U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees to the delegation turn over their phones before the tour of an El Paso Border facility.
"They're trying to keep things secret," Castro said in an interview with the Tribune about the Trump administration. "[The reason] things don't change is because these conditions are kept secret. People have to speak up and they have to take action. This was about shining a light on what's going on."
A video Castro tweeted Monday of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, communicating in Spanish with female migrants had been viewed more than 1.6 million times and retweeted more than 21,000 times as of Wednesday afternoon. In the video, the women complain about needing medical treatment. Castro said that some of the women also said that agents were using derogatory language toward the migrants.
This moment captures what it’s like for women in CBP custody to share a cramped cell—some held for 50 days—for them to be denied showers for up to 15 days and life-saving medication. For some, it also means being separated from their children. This is El Paso Border Station #1. pic.twitter.com/OmCAlGxDt8— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) July 1, 2019
When the delegation arrived at the El Paso facility, administration officials told the legislators they would not be allowed to take photographs or speak with the detainees, citing "a tight schedule," Castro recalled.
"That's our decision," Castro said, citing the legislative branch's oversight responsibilities.
"We challenged them. We asked them what law doesn’t allow us to document what’s going on," he said. "They couldn't tell us what law keeps us from doing that."
He quickly drew the conclusion that the directive was more of a courtesy request, one that Castro decided he couldn't grant.
"The stakes are way too high to abide by this courtesy," he said.
A CPB official told The Washington Post that photos were prohibited for security purposes and to protect the privacy of the migrants. But Castro said the migrants "asked us to make public that they needed help. ... They asked us for help getting the word."
"It's hard for me to believe that when our government is letting people go 15 days without a shower and keeping them in cramped cells, that anybody is concerned about their privacy," he said.
Castro took care to underscore that the agents "were professional."
"I don’t want to give the impression they were rude," he said. "But they’re trying to lay down the law and say this is how it’s going to be, and you can’t even cite a law."
That same day, Castro and other elected officials visited a border station in Clint and a facility in El Paso for children operated by the Department of Health and Human Services. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus organized Monday's trip after a public outcry prompted by reports of squalid conditions at the Clint facility.
On Monday evening, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted a picture taken by Castro of herself with the women.
Here’s another photo from inside taken by @JoaquinCastrotx, where we’re trying to comfort women trapped in cells.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 2, 2019
This woman was telling me about her daughters who were taken from her - she doesn’t know where they’ve taken them.
We held & listened to them. They were distraught. pic.twitter.com/ca1GwKfDfU