WASHINGTON – Former acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders told CNN that "a lot more needs to be done" for migrant children on the southern U.S. border.
Sanders explained why he left the Trump administration in an interview with CNN published on Thursday. Sanders announced his resignation after two and a half months in office on June 25 amid reports children were being held in a Clint, Texas, Border Patrol station in overcrowded conditions.
"They made a choice, and so I thought it was a good time to go," Sanders said, in reference to his replacement by Mark Morgan, who had previously been serving as the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Sanders told CNN he was sympathetic to the plight of migrant children in federal detention, especially after several children died in Border Patrol custody.
"It hit me hard, that he was in the cell sleeping," Sanders said, referring to pictures and videos of Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy who died after being diagnosed with the flu in a Border Patrol station.
"Helping the kids. That has forever changed me. And I think a lot more needs to be done for them," he said to CNN.
On July 2, the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General issued a report showing that migrant children detained by Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley were held in abject conditions.
"That's what conditions were like," said Sanders in reference to the reports. "They were very, very bad."
"Why ever people come, they are here. I think that compassion and empathy is important to ensure they are treated humanely with dignity with respect," Sanders told CNN.
According to CNN, Sanders did not directly criticize the Trump administration, but he had come into the job seeking to "do good" for migrants.
"I didn't see any of it is political," Sanders explained. "I saw it as an opportunity to try to do good."
Sanders had originally come to the CBP job after serving in the private sector and as an official for the Transportation Security Administration during the Obama administration.
Sanders had implored Congress to pass emergency funding for humanitarian relief on the southern border. Congress passed a $4.6-billion package on June 26, the day after Sanders announced his resignation.
Sanders' agency had faced criticism for its treatment of migrants in Border Patrol custody after migrants and immigrant advocates alleged mistreatment and overcrowding in detention centers.
The Trump administration, though, intends to continue its hardline stance on immigration. On Sunday, according to the New York Times, the Trump administration plans to begin arrests of more than 2,000 undocumented family members across the United States. On July 5, Trump had promised the raids would begin, telling reporters, “They’ll be starting fairly soon, but I don’t call them raids, we’re removing people, all of these people who have come in over the years illegally,"
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'A lot more needs to be done for them': Ex-CBP chief explains why he left the Trump administration, report says