Democratic lawmakers who toured two U.S. border facilities Monday claim they feared Customs and Border Patrol agents would physically attack, or even shoot them, during the guided tour.
Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) told CNN that she was concerned agents would attack the members of Congress, or possibly members of their staff.
In comments to reporters and on Twitter, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said she feared CBP agents might shoot her.
The comments came amid a ProPublica report about a private Facebook group in which some Customs agents mocked anti-CPB lawmakers.
“I was definitely concerned,” Rep. Torres said. “We were disrespected when we were there. We had a conversation with management about this article before we entered the location. Now, we were told that our staff had to stay outside and that we had to keep either our phones there at the entryway or we had to leave them in the car. Now, I don’t trust to leave my cellphone with these individuals that would threaten members of Congress while we are in the process of doing our job.”
“Let me remind these people that this is our job: oversight is our job, and that’s what we were doing,” she continued. “And to threaten members of Congress, I certainly did not feel safe to be inside this location. I voiced those concerns, and I also voiced my concern for the safety of my staff that was left outside and who was going to be taking care and ensuring that no attacks were going to be against our staff. And they reassured us of that.”
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez suggested CBP agents considered attacking her during the congressional delegation’s visit.
"I mean, in that last facility, I was not safe from the officers in that facility,” she told reporters after departing the premises.
AOC’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, suggested there was a real possibility a CPB officer might shoot the lawmaker: “Imagine all your hateful trolls online, but with guns. Imagine walking into a fenced area full of them. No exit. You don't get to take any cameras or phones with you. And those trolls with guns? They're the ones in charge of protecting you. That's what @AOC faced today.”
The New York congresswoman followed up on Twitter, suggesting CBP agents put her life in danger.
“And to these CBP officers saying they felt ‘threatened’ by me - They were literally discussing making a GoFundMe for an officer who attacked my [sic] on my tour,” she tweeted. “They confiscated my phone, and they were all armed. I’m 5’4”. They’re just upset I exposed their inhumane behavior.”
Earlier in the morning, AOC courted controversy after accusing another border facility in El Paso, Texas, of forcing women to drink toilet water.
“Officers were keeping women in cells w/ no water & had told them to drink out of the toilets,” she tweeted. “This was them on their GOOD behavior in front of members of Congress.”
AOC indicated she had been told this from women she spoke with, but then later said she discovered a broken sink herself.
Customs and Border Patrol vigorously denied AOC’s claims of forcing women to drink toilet water.
“No one is drinking toilet water,” a CBP official said. “They're drinking potable water from the sink attached to the toilet. It's what you would find in every municipal jail in the United States.”
AOC’s colleague, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) posted a video saying the Democratic delegation was told about a broken sink. AOC, however, posted another update to Twitter saying she and Rep. Ayanna Pressley discovered the broken faucet.
Referring to the sink/toilet fixture, AOC said of a “cell” she visited: “The sink portion was not functioning – @AyannaPressley smartly tried to open the faucet, and nothing came out. So the women were told they could drink out of the bowl.”
The Washington Examiner reported that AOC did not actually tour the border facility and made a scene by screaming at border agents.
“She comes out screaming at our agents, right at the beginning [of the tour] … Crying and screaming and yelling,” a witness told the Examiner. “The agents, they wanted to respond, but they held back because she’s a congressional delegate. But when you have someone yelling at you in a threatening manner … They were like, ‘Hey, you need to kinda step back.’”