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Reporter's First Look at Arizona Detention Facility

immigration-overload
Two young girls watch a World Cup soccer match on television from their holding area in Nogales, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

The media got its first look at conditions inside Border Patrol detention facilities in South Texas and Arizona on Wednesday.

Until now, officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) haven't allowed reporters inside the facilities in Nogales, AZ and the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. While the center in Nogales remains just below capacity, those in Texas have been overwhelmed by an influx of immigrants crossing the border illegally, many of them unaccompanied minors.

That changed yesterday after recent pressure from Arizona senators and photos of an overcrowded South Texas facility released by U.S. Rep. Henry Cueller of Laredo.

This morning we spoke with Fronteras Desk reporter Jude Joffee-Block, one of the first reporters to step inside the Nogales Facility.

She reports that while the Nogales Placement Center was never meant to house children, some steps are being taken to improve conditions there.

Children are now able to bathe as they arrive. They're also being issued uniforms and rotated outdoors to play sports. Still, the ACLU has raised allegations of abuse at the facilities, while the CBP insists it has safeguards in place to prevent that from happening.

In Texas, state leaders have authorized a $1.3 million-per-week border surge operation for the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) as a response to the immigration wave.

Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus authorized the state's DPS Director Steve McCraw to use "all exiting appropriated funds toward this operation."

A letter sent to McCraw says the overwhelming of federal resources because of the immigration wave has led to increased potential for human trafficking and drug smuggling, along with threats from Mexican cartels.

So far, there's been little details released about the surge operation, other than the fact that lawmakers will revisit the cost of the surge next legislative session.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.