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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

Updated 11 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Bipartisan police reform negotiations end without deal

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) with Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in the Capitol in May 2021. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Bipartisan talks on reforming police tactics and accountability, prompted by George Floyd's murder in May 2020, have ended without a compromise, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a key negotiator, said Wednesday.

Why it matters: Lawmakers, led by Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Booker, had been working toward a bipartisan deal for months but things fell apart due to disagreements on qualified immunity and other issues.

Federal Reserve scales back expectations for economic recovery as Delta variant weighs

Fed chair Jerome Powell during a congressional hearing last year. (Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Fed downgraded near-term expectations for the economy and the labor market, alongside hotter-than-expected inflation, in new estimates out on Wednesday.

Why it matters: It's the first time those closely-watched estimates reflect impact from the delta variant that's already rattled the labor market. Still, Fed chairman Jerome Powell said enough progress has been made to begin to pull back emergency-era measures that have supported the economy.

Biden speaks with Macron for first time since diplomatic crisis

President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron have a conversation ahead of the NATO summit in Brussels, on June 14, 2021. Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

President Biden on Wednesday spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron for the first time since a diplomatic row erupted over a scrapped submarine order, per the White House.

Driving the news: Macron said that the French ambassador will return to Washington next week and will resume working with senior U.S. officials.