Border Patrol Agents Threatened with Criminal Charges for Speaking to Reporters
HOUSTON, Texas—A surge of thousands of illegal immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border has left federal resources and facilities overwhelmed. Most of the new migrants are children from Central America. In the aftermath of Breitbart Texas releasing photos showing minors warehoused in crowded U.S. cells, Border Patrol agents in Texas have been instructed not to speak to media outlets.
The Associated Press (AP) obtained an email from Eligio "Lee" Pena, an assistant patrol agent, that ordered more than 3,000 agents to not speak to reporters about the "humanitarian crisis." The email allegedly said that reporters are likely to press for details and "may try to disguise themselves" in the process."
Pena's email went on to warn agents that they could be disciplined or even charged with a crime if they speak to media, according to the AP.
Since the news of the spike in foreign minors, Border Patrol contacts--many of whom used to speak on the record regularly--have not returned numerous phone calls or emails from Breitbart Texas.
The silence comes in the face of the apprehension of 47,000 foreign children traveling alone to the U.S. since October.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson implied at a press conference on Thursday that many of the children will not be deported. "The law requires that we act in the best interest in the child," he said. "When we turn over a child to HHS, HHS acts in the best interest of the child which very often means reuniting that child with the parent in the United States. That's what the law requires."
It is unclear, then, how immigration laws will be enforced moving forward.
Many are concerned that by providing the migrants with shelter, transportation, meals, education, and even legal counsel, other children may be encouraged to make the dangerous trek north from Central America. Since agents on the ground are not able to give insight into the situation, the actual severity of the situation may be unknown.
This is not the first time Border Patrol agents have been ordered to remain silent on an issue. In May, Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) ordered agents not to speak to reporters regarding the 36,000 convicted criminal illegal immigrants that were released onto U.S. soil.
"We were given specific instructions not to comment on that report," said Greg Palmore, a Texas-based ICE spokesman, during a phone interview with Breitbart Texas. He was referring to the report by the Center for Immigration Studies that outlined the criminals' release.
Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate.