"Every family I spoke to said they were being well cared for, and that's different than some of the harsh rhetoric we hear from Capitol Hill", Pence said. "It's overwhelmed and that's why Congress has to act".
The child shelter closed in January after the Trump administration loosened some requirements it had created for potential sponsors offering to care for unaccompanied migrant children. But the scene the vice-president witnessed is sure to spark new criticism of the conditions facing migrants in US government facilities.
Pence toured two migrant holding facilities Friday with Republican senators in an effort to defend the administration's handling of the migrant crisis following reports of inhumane conditions at the facilities.
"When the men saw the press arrive, they began shouting and wanted to tell us they'd been in there 40 days or longer", the report said. Some agents guarding the cages wore face masks.
In this his second visit to the region, the vice president said the trip came at the behest of President Donald Trump in the wake of what the president called "slanderous" reporting about federal immigration agents.
Almost 400 men "were in caged fences with no cots", Dawsey wrote, adding that it was so crowded the men would not have been able to lie down even on the concrete. The report quoted a senior government manager as calling the situation a "ticking time bomb".
Michael Banks, the patrol agent in charge of the McAllen facility, disputed the detainees' account of the conditions, saying they are allowed to brush their teeth once a day, and that the no one had been held there longer than 32 days. He said they were given deodorant after showering, but conceded numerous men had not showered for 10 or 20 days. It also came days before Trump-ordered nationwide raids targeting people in the U.S. illegally are expected to begin, according to administration officials and immigrant activists, actions that would further inflame the issue. "And the facts are that we have a crisis on our southern border that is being driven by human traffickers who are exploiting loopholes in American law to entice vulnerable families to make a long and unsafe journey north".
"Because of the smell, it was hard for me to sit by them", she said.
The new adult holding facility is being built at the Marcelino Serna Port of Entry, about 30 miles southeast of El Paso.
As if in counterpoint to Democrats' testimony, Pence and eight GOP lawmakers toured a border station in Donna, Texas, a vast collection of air-conditioned, interconnected tents built in May to temporarily handle 1,000 migrants and now holding 800.
Republicans have responded to Democrats' criticism of the detention facility by saying they are unfairly maligning border agents who are doing their best under hard circumstances because of the surge of Central American migrants.
Pence later said he was "not surprised by what I saw". "That's the overwhelming of the system that some in Congress have said was a manufactured crisis", Pence said during a news conference after visiting the second facility.
Pence says he has pushed for more federal spending to deal with the situation.
The Trump administration has also been under fire over conditions inside a Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas, where children were found in filthy conditions and keeping watch over younger kids amid the overcrowding.
Central American families fleeing violence, poverty and drought have been coming to the U.S.in record numbers this year, peaking in May, when the Border Patrol made almost 133,000 apprehensions.