When it comes to reporting on illegal immigration, there’s always a certain line of thinking that gets adopted — one that usually mitigates any criminality in the act, if it acknowledges it at all.
The party line as of late is that the border crisis is nothing more than Central American families fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries. This is, for instance, the opening two graphs in an April New York Times story about the crisis, which sets about the right tone:
“It was never like this before,” the story begins. “The migrants come now in the middle of the night or in the bright light of day. Men and women arrive by the hundreds, caked with dirt, with teens and toddlers in tow. They jump the small fences in remote parts of Texas, and they gather on the hot pavement at the main border crossing in California. Tired and fearful, they look for the one thing that they pray will allow them to stay in the United States, at least for a while: a Border Patrol agent.”
That’s the basic idea here: That all these tired, poor, huddled masses crossing our border are looking for is a member of officialdom so they can turn themselves in and the asylum proceedings can begin.
There is a certain degree of truth in this, although how legitimate the asylum claims are remains a matter of debate. No less than Thomas Friedman of The Times noted that “roughly 30 percent” of family units apprehended asked for asylum, a far cry from the 1 percent that applied just a few years ago.
However, that’s not the entire story of what’s going on at the southern border.
Customs and Border Protection published a tweet last week that alleged the “majority” of those caught illegally crossing in the Tucson Sector were wearing clothes specifically intended to keep them from being spotted:
How many Border Patrol agents do you see in this photo? The majority of apprehensions in #TucsonSector are illegal aliens dressed in full camouflage with carpet booties over their shoes trying to evade arrest. @CBP pic.twitter.com/ycZ1xRUlTv
— CBP Arizona (@CBPArizona) June 19, 2019
“How many Border Patrol agents do you see in this photo?” the Thursday tweet from CBP Arizona asked. “The majority of apprehensions in #TucsonSector are illegal aliens dressed in full camouflage with carpet booties over their shoes trying to evade arrest.” (Tip: The agents in the photo are wearing helmets.)
This isn’t just Arizona, either. Back in January, CBP West Texas tweeted about drug smugglers apprehended in “southern New Mexico” in similar outfits:
— CBP West Texas (@CBPWestTexas) January 31, 2019
A news release from CBP at the time said agents were able to “seize more than $100,000 worth of marijuana as it was being smuggled through southern New Mexico near Playas” in the operation.
“On January 29, 2019, at approximately 9:30 p.m., a Lordsburg Border Patrol Agent operating infrared surveillance equipment observed four subjects walking northbound near the smelter on Highway 1113, approximately 8 miles south of Playas. Border Patrol All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Units along with a National Guard Helicopter responded to the area,” the release read.
“The helicopter, equipped with night vision equipment, was able to locate four subjects hiding in the brush. The Border Patrol ATV Unit was guided by the helicopter to the subjects in the brush resulting in the arrest of all subjects. Guard members then alerted and guided the agents to several large rectangular shaped burlap sacks in the area. The contents of the bundles tested positive for marijuana and weighed a total of 135.8 pounds with an estimated value of $108,640…
“The subjects were wearing camouflage clothing and custom made footwear designed to mask their tracks as they smuggled contraband north away from the border. During processing, it was determined that all four subjects are citizens of Mexico, and were in the United States illegally. The four subjects will be detained pending criminal/immigration prosecution. “
However, there’s no talk, in the West Texas sector, about a “majority” of illegal immigrants being dressed in such gear. We’ll limit our discussion on the impact of this to the Tucson Sector. According to NPR, that’s the sector that recorded the second-highest number of apprehensions in fiscal year 2018, with 166,652 individuals captured by authorities.
We don’t necessarily know how large this “majority” is. Assume it’s imprecise language and what the post meant was that it was a relatively high percentage. That’s still a lot of individuals who are crossing an insecure border who aren’t just “[t]ired and fearful” asylum seekers “caked with dirt,” desperately looking for anyone from CBP to turn themselves into.
One doesn’t wear camouflage and carpeted shoes to achieve this end.
What you’re seeing above is part of the whole immigration narrative, and it’s why we desperately need an upgrade in border security.
Yes, of course, there are men, women and children who are coming to the United States to seek asylum. How credible their credible fear claims are is matter of opinion, but that’s why we have a court system. However, instead of these individuals risking their lives in profoundly inhospitable terrain, it would be significantly better if they were to claim asylum at ports of entry.
Yes, that would mean they might be returned to Mexico as their cases are processed. It’s still a better option than an uncontrolled flow of individuals across a brutal desert.
But then there’s the second fact: That these men, women and children aren’t the only people taking advantage of an insecure border. People in camouflage and carpeted shoes aren’t in this group.
The fact that this represents any sort of trend shows the desperate need for the kind of border security the Republicans have been asking for — whether it’s a wall, a bollard fence or other measures, this is the threat that needs to be stopped.
And it’s the threat that the American people need to be informed of.
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