Marco Werman: We've been hearing all summer about the wave of unaccompanied minors coming to the US from Central America and they're still coming. More than 57,000 of these kids apprehended at the border just in the past 10 months. That's more than double the amount from the previous year. The majority of those children are crossing the border in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. We sent The World's Jason Margolis there for a week on a reporting assignment and he's now back in Boston. Jason, we're going to be hearing your stories in the coming days but you're fresh off this trip, so I want to get a quick taste of what you saw and heard there. First, orient us. Where is the Rio Grande Valley?
Jason Margolis: The Rio Grande Valley is in the southern part of southeast Texas. If you went to Houston, which is near the Gulf of Mexico and went almost pretty much straight south, a little bit west, 350 miles, that's the Rio Grande Valley.
Werman: I want you to dig into what you just saw, and you went precisely to witness the condition of these kids in detention. I know a lot of our listeners have seen the images of children lying body to body, crowded conditions. Where are they actually? Describe it.
Margolis: Those children are very close to the border, very close to the Rio Grande River. What they do is they apprehend those children and they bring them in for processing. They take their fingerprints, they take their photo -
Werman: - We're talking about federal agents doing this.
Margolis: Federal agents, US Customs and Border Patrol. And they're put in these detention facilities. There's about 15 cells, it's sort of a semicircle and the guards are in the center so they can see everything that's going on. The cells are about 15 feet wide by 20 feet deep, some are a little deeper. And they were crammed with bodies. Body to body, people lying on concrete floors. Not just children but there were families, there were mothers and children with their faces pressed up against the glass windows and the glass doors, just looking out. But the most striking part of the tour for me was when they opened up a cell door and they let me go in for a minute or two and just the overpowering stench of body odor. These people have been traveling these very difficult journeys for weeks and weeks and they haven't showered, many haven't brushed their teeth in weeks and it was really dirty.
Werman: Jason, I'll be blunt - it sounds inhumane.
Margolis: I was thinking about that word a lot and I think that's a very arbitrary word because I don't think Border Patrol is to blame. I think they're doing the best they can. They've had this incredible influx of people. It is far from ideal and they recognize that and they say "We're stretched to the limit." So, they're trying to get them in and out as quickly as possible to a better facility but the places that they're going to, there's also lack of bed space there, so some people are waiting 2 days, 3 days or longer. I spoke with one woman who said she was there 9 days.
Werman: You probably encountered this - a lot of people call these detention facilities on the border "Ice Boxes." Did you notice any distinct change in temperature when you entered these facilities?
Margolis: Everybody talks about how cold they are, the "Ice boxes," the "hieleras." I asked the chief who runs that region, the Rio Grande Valley, Kevin Oaks, "Are they that cold and if so, why are they that cold?" Here's what he said to me:
Kevin Oaks: There's nobody here intentionally making anybody cold and so if you have people that don't normally live in air conditioned locations and have traveled through hundreds and hundreds of miles of heat to get there, and so you go into 72 degree or 74 degree climate, it may seem cold to them.
Werman: Hm, people who don't have AC don't understand what an air conditioned room feels like. You buy that?
Margolis: I think I do. I can only say what I experienced and what I experienced was a 72-degree room. They were very intent on me seeing the actual thermometer gauge. I walked in and I said "No, okay, I can feel it's room temperature," and they said "No, we want to show you," and it was 72 degrees.
Werman: The Feds wanted to show you.
Margolis: Yes, the Border Patrol wanted to show me. I saw people wrapping themselves in those foil blankets, those mylar blankets, and other people were sitting there and looked fine. I felt fine myself. So I think we all gauge temperature differently and from what I saw, they're not ice boxes.
Werman: You also saw another detention facility, wasn't just this one. Any differences?
Margolis: Huge difference, night and day. They opened this new facility for the children 2 weeks ago and it's a big warehouse and it has these chain link fences and big, open areas. Two cages - they're attached - one for sleeping and one for recreating. There were kids playing soccer, kids playing basketball. After I saw the two places, as a reporter, I'm thinking "Okay, why show me these two places?" Because you couldn't have more of a stark difference and what I'm thinking is with time and resources the new warehouse is a possibility.
Werman: In the meantime, Washington lawmakers are on vacation and it's really hard to think about not stepping for these kids. These guys are on vacation and these kids are far from having a vacation. Jason, as I said, we'll be hearing your stories from the border in the coming days. Looking forward to that. The World's Jason Margolis, thank you.
Margolis: Thank you.