Former Border Patrol chief tells Fox & Friends that Facebook group where officers joked about migrant deaths is just a "distraction"
Vitello denies testimony from congressional representatives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: "She was there for three minutes and now she's an expert on what this facility looks like?"
Video ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF
From the July 2 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
GRIFF JENKINS (GUEST CO-HOST): AOC verses CBP. The Democratic congresswoman tearing into border agents after touring a Texas holding facility for migrants.
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Former U.S. Border Patrol chief Ron Vitiello, also served as CBP acting deputy commissioner. He joins us now to react. Ron, did you tell -- do you people -- the people you work with or supervise you tell to you give people toilet water?
RON VITIELLO (FORMER ACTING DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION; FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT): No. That's not how these facilities are designed. That's not what our people are trained to do. Those facilities are very well scripted in the sense of people get regulated coming in, coming out. How often they get fed. The temperature inside the cell. The cleaning, all of that stuff is regulated very highly by the men and women of CBP.
JENKINS: Ron, these facilities are not intended for long-term. They are not made to hold people. But yet, in El Paso where AOC was, you've got a more than 2,000% increase. Are people losing sight of what the agents are trying to deal with?
VITIELLO: This is a problem. These facilities were built for the booking procedure. People are supposed to be in those facilities for a couple of hours so agents can get their fingerprints, identify who they are, place them under DACA (sic) control, and in the case of families, eventually released. But they're being overwhelmed. There are tens of thousands of people coming to the border all week long and there's only so much floor space. There's only so much computer time that agents have to get people through the process.
KILMEADE: Ron, the thing about you guys is you ask us to come down. You want to show us what you're dealing with on a regular basis. The sectors say, listen, we want you to see this. We are overwhelmed and Congress isn't responding. They went up to July 1 without any aid. The funding was going to fall off a cliff unless there was a last second deal. Humanitarian aid.
VITIELLO: All the delays for that funding caused delays and backlogs at the CBP facilities. HHS has to be equipped to take the kids into shelter care.
KILMEADE: There's 51,000 of those kids since November.
VITIELLO: That's right.
KILMEADE: Unaccompanied minors.
VITIELLO: So HHS has the responsibility of caring for those children. Their grantees get them placed in society. CBP and ICE have to have the facilities to move people through their space. And so that supplemental funding will add floor space, it will add computers, it will add humanitarian aid for the situation. But if Congress doesn't act and close these loopholes, we're going to be back in the same place this time next year.
JENKINS: Right, and we have those numbers, you know, Brian talked about. Seeing it, right? I have spent so much time with the Border Patrol down there on the border in Mexico and Honduras and Guatemala. But, you know, when AOC says a woman told her that she was made -- told to drink from the toilet, have you ever had an instance like that? Do you recall ever hearing about a situation like that?
VITIELLO: These stories come out all the time. One of the stories is about how cold these facilities are, but no one ever talks about how cold they are or why the temperature is regulated. These are forced air facilities. It's air conditioning. The air needs to flow through. Both the agents have to be comfortable and the people who are in custody have to be comfortable and cared for. How cold is it in a facility like that? The average temperature is 70 degrees. That's not cold for you and me, but if you come out of the desert and you're overheated then that makes you feel cold.
JENKINS: But temperatures aside, you specifically never saw any migrant drinking out of the toilet.
VITIELLO: I have never seen anything like that. And, look, she was there for three minutes and now she's an expert on what this facility looks like? What about the people who have been there for years and years and years and are being overwhelmed by the system and by these loopholes that are forcing people and enticing people to come to the border with their children?
KILMEADE: She comes out and says that Border Patrol is laughing behind her back. She also said she felt physically threatened by Border Patrol agents when she walked through. She felt her security was threatened. And then she also said what the migrant just told her about the toilet water. Now it looks like Border Patrol is enemy number one, especially when you talk about that Facebook story where some inappropriate things were reportedly said on Facebook among agents.
VITIELLO: This is an unfortunate distraction. The Facebook post, this site, it needs to be investigated. I saw the statements made by CBP that their Office of Professional Responsibility are looking into that. People need to be held to account for what they say in public. But that doesn't change the crisis that's going on in places like Clint, TX, in El Paso, in Yuma, AZ, in the Rio Grande Valley. They still have a huge problem over there, and this distraction is a distraction. What's happening on the ground needs to be fixed. I've seen this administration do more than any previous government that I have worked for, any administration that I have worked for. I have seen them do more. You see unprecedented support from Mexico which we hope is sustained and continued.
KILMEADE: There's a crisis at the border. Now even Democrats reveal it, but they want to blame the Border Patrol for it. And it's unfortunate because, to me, they're the least to blame.
VITIELLO: I agree. No one does more than CBP and the Border Patrol for these folks.
JENKINS: And this hurts morale, no?
VITIELLO: It does, when they're talking about these other things instead of concentrating on the crisis and fixing it.