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Migrants in the Donna overflow facility. Photo: Courtesy of Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)

Exclusive photos from inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporary overflow facility in Donna, Texas, reveal the crowded, makeshift conditions at the border as the government's longer-term child shelters and family detention centers fill up.

Why it matters: Each of eight "pods" in the so-called soft-sided facility has a 260-person occupancy, said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who provided the photos to Axios to raise awareness about the situation. But as of Sunday, he said, one pod held more than 400 unaccompanied male minors.

  • Because the Biden administration has restricted media coverage at housing facilities, images like these offer a rare window into conditions.
  • Cuellar, who recently visited a shelter for children, did not tour the Donna facility or take the photos himself. He said the photos were taken over the weekend.

What they're saying: Cuellar described the setting as "terrible conditions for the children" and said they need to be moved more rapidly into the care of the Department of Health and Human Services.

  • Border Patrol agents are "doing the best they can under the circumstances" but are "not equipped to care for kids" and "need help from the administration," he said.
  • "We have to stop kids and families from making the dangerous trek across Mexico to come to the United States. We have to work with Mexico and Central American countries to have them apply for asylum in their countries."

“I have said repeatedly from the very outset a Border Patrol station is no place for a child," DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told CNN on Sunday. "That is why we are working around the clock to move these children out of the Border Patrol facilities into the care and custody of the Department of Health and Human Services that shelters them.”

  • On MSNBC, he compared the administration's actions to those of the Trump administration,"We are not expelling children, girls, 5, 7, 9 years old back into the desert of Mexico, back into the hands of traffickers.”

The bottom line: Facilities are at capacity under coronavirus protocols, and the Rio Grande Valley sector — which includes Donna — has far exceeded even its non-pandemic limits.

  • As of Saturday, there were 10,000 migrants in CBP custody overall. Nearly half were unaccompanied minors — thousands of whom had been waiting for more than 3 days in border patrol facilities, according to government data provided to Axios by another source.
Photo: Courtesy of Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)
Photo: Courtesy of Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)
Photo: Courtesy of Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)
Photo: Courtesy of Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)

Go deeper

Scoop: Stephanie Ruhle to replace Brian Williams on MSNBC

Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

MSNBC will soon announce plans to move morning anchor Stephanie Ruhle to the 11 pm ET hour that Brian Williams turned into an elite destination, two sources familiar with the move tell Axios.

Details: The 9 am ET hour, currently hosted by Ruhle, will become part of MSNBC's flagship morning show, "Morning Joe," which currently runs from 6 am to 9 am ET.

Oath Keepers leader denied bail on Capitol riot sedition charge

Oath Keepers co-founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

A federal judge ordered Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes to remain jailed Wednesday until trial on charges stemming from the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: The judge said the most prominent far-right figure charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection had access to weapons and his alleged "continued advocacy for violence against the federal government" gave credence to prosecutors' view that, if released, Rhodes could endanger others.

Who in Congress is talking about Ukraine the most

Data: Quorum; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Mentions of Ukraine or Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in congressional statements and social media posts have been on the rise — with nearly 1,000 already this month, according to data from Quorum.

Why it matters: The growing threat of a Russian invasion has been mirrored by a growth in Ukraine-related chatter.