Are Border Patrol agents really telling migrants to drink out of toilets?

A prison toilet-sink combo
(Image credit: iStock)

More than a dozen House Democrats toured two Border Patrol facilities and a child-migrant shelter near El Paso, Texas, on Monday, and one specific allegation garnered lots of attention. At a facility in El Paso, lawmakers described a visit with more than a dozen Cuban women held in a crowded cell with no running water. "One of the women said that she was told by an agent to drink water out of the toilet," said Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) at a news conference, amid shouts from protesters who support President Trump's border policies. "These are the conditions that have been created by the Trump administration."

An unidentified Homeland Security Department official told The Washington Post that no Border Patrol agent would make detained migrants drink from a toilet and that clean water was available to drink. But the House Democrats were pretty specific. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) identified the toilet-sink combo they saw in the cell, in response to a skeptical tweet from Daily Mail political editor David Martosko.

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"And that was them knowing that a congressional visit was coming," Ocasio-Cortez told the Post. "This is CBP on their best behavior, telling people to drink out of the toilet." Other lawmakers described the same drinking-from-a-toilet anecdote and generally appalling conditions at the detention centers.

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Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) said some lawmakers also asked Border Patrol officers privately if they themselves would be safe inside the facilities, given a newly reported Facebook group where current and former Border Patrol agents mocked dead migrants, discussed throwing burritos at the Democratic lawmakers, and posted sexually explicit content about Ocasio-Cortez.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.