Watch Ayanna Pressley’s Impassioned Remarks After Visiting Migrant Detention Centers in Texas

Pressley joined Massachusetts representatives Joe Kennedy and Lori Trahan in El Paso and Clint, Texas on Monday.

ayanna pressley

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Last month, lawyers who visited the migrant detention center in Clint, Texas described dismal conditions for the hundreds of children detained there.

On Monday, a group of over a dozen Congress members journeyed to the Clint facility and another center in El Paso to see the facilities for themselves. Through social media updates throughout their visit, they painted an even more detailed portrait of life inside these centers, where women are subjected to psychological warfare, forced to go weeks without showering, and told that they can drink water from the toilet if they’re thirsty.

Massachusetts representatives Ayanna Pressley, Lori Trahan, and Joe Kennedy all attended the visit. Kennedy posted several times on Twitter throughout the day, saying that Customs and Border Patrol officers were uncooperative, trying to restrict what the lawmakers saw and limit their phone use, and that the atmosphere felt “jail-like,” with concrete floors and cells filled to capacity.

Trahan described a similar scene on her own Twitter account.

Tensions were particularly high yesterday after ProPublica published an explosive report prior to the planned visit that described a secret Facebook group in which Border Patrol agents posted vulgar comments and memes about Congress members and migrants. Some posts specifically addressed the lawmakers’ visit yesterday, including one that suggested that Border Patrol agents should “hurl a burrito” at Latina Congresswomen Veronica Escobar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

As the story of the Facebook group circulated and gathered steam, protesters gathered outside the Clint detention center while the members of Congress visited inside. They carried signs reading “We Are the Wall” and  “Start Deporting” and waved Trump 2020 banners and flags.

As the surrounding crowds of protesters shouted “shut up,” “baby killer,” and “liar,” Pressley delivered her remarks, yelling so she could be heard above the protesters, and even addressing them.

Keep yelling. This is very appropriate. Vile rhetoric for vile actions. Hateful rhetoric for hateful behavior. Racist words and venom for racist policies. Very apropos. This is bigger than a funding debate, or about any speeches that we give here on the floor of the House of Representatives. This is about the preservation of our humanity, and this is about seeing every single person there as a member of your own family. I am tired of the health and the safety, the humanity, and the full freedoms of black and brown children being negotiated and compromised and moderated. We need a system that works, that is humane, and that is compassionate, that keeps families together.

I learned a long time ago that when change happens, it’s either because people see the light, or they feel the fire. Today, we are lifting up these stories in the hopes that you will see the light—and if you don’t, we will bring the fire.

Watch the video of Pressley’s speech below.