Children's faces pressed against glass. Hundreds of young boys and girls covered with aluminum foil-like blankets next to chain-link fences. The pungent odor that comes with keeping dirty travelers in close quarters.
These were the sights from a Wednesday tour of a crowded Border Patrol station in South Texas where thousands of immigrants are being held before they are transferred to other shelters around the country.
It was the first time the media was given access to the facility since President Barack Obama called the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally this budget year an "urgent humanitarian situation."
Border Patrol stations like the one in Brownsville were not meant for long-term custody. Immigrants are supposed to wait there until they are processed and taken to detention centers. But the surge in children arriving without their parents has overwhelmed the U.S. government.
The surge, which has been building for three years, comes amid a steep overall increase in immigrant arrests in southernmost Texas.
The children are mostly from Central America. They pose a particular challenge because the law requires Customs and Border Protection to transfer them to the Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours. That agency's network of some 100 shelters around the country has been over capacity for months and is now caring for more than 7,600 children.
Read more at the Associated Press