Dems, GOP debate conditions

Democrats blamed for posturing

WASHINGTON — Four House Democratic freshmen who recently toured detention stations for migrants along the Texas border told a House committee Friday of jam-packed, fetid holding areas and accused President Donald Trump of intentional cruelty to discourage future arrivals.

Firing back, a quartet of Republicans from border states told the same panel that Democrats weren’t doing anything to ease the crisis and blamed them for posturing that one said was aimed at “Twitter followers and cynical politics.”

Friday’s House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing offered a microcosm of the nation’s red-blue chasm and, perhaps, a chance for each side to vent. But ultimately, it underscored each party’s starkly warring views about Trump’s hardline anti-immigration policies, suggesting they’re destined to be a leading issue for the 2020 presidential and congressional campaigns.

The hearing came as the number of families, children and other migrants entering the U.S. from Mexico has surged above 100,000 monthly since March, overwhelming federal agencies’ ability to detain them in sanitary conditions or move them quickly to better housing.

Before Friday’s session began, panel Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., released a report providing new details on 2,648 of the children the Trump administration separated from their families last year before abandoning that policy under widespread pressure.

The report, using data the panel demanded from federal agencies, found that 18 children under age 2 — half who were just months old — were kept from their parents up to half a year. Hundreds were held longer than previously revealed, including 25 kept over a year, and at least 30 remain apart from their parents.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., the 29-year-old progressive icon, was among the four Democrats — all women — who testified. After being sworn in at her request, a practice the committee generally eschews for fellow lawmakers and seemed a taunt at dubious Republicans, she described migrant women telling her they had to sleep on the concrete floor and drink from the toilet because their cell’s sink was broken.

Departing the White House, Trump told reporters without evidence that Ocasio-Cortez’ account of women being told to drink from a toilet was “a phony story she made it up.”

As if in counterpoint to Democrats’ testimony, Vice President Mike Pence and eight GOP lawmakers toured a border station Friday in Donna, Texas, a vast collection of air-conditioned, interconnected tents built in May to temporarily handle 1,000 migrants and currently holding 800. Many lay on mats on the floor, covered by foil blankets as children watched TV.

“Every family I spoke to said they were being well cared for,” Pence said, criticizing Democrats’ “harsh rhetoric.”

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