US Media Restricted at Border, Federal Agent Cites Safety Concerns
GRANJENO CITY, Texas—A remote section of the U.S.-Mexico border near the Anzalduas International Bridge is one of the few places where media can witness and record the mass crossings of minors coming from Central America. The U.S. Border Patrol is now restricting journalists' access to the area citing safety concerns.
“You can’t be here," a Border Patrol agent said. After learning that he was speaking with Breitbart Texas, the agent repeated his assertion and stated, “It isn’t safe for you here.” The agent refused to give his name and then grabbed his phone, acting as though he had a phone call. He then raised his arm over his name badge. When a camera was put on him, he quickly sped off. (The unidentified Border Patrol agent is pictured above)
The National Border Patrol Council (NBPC), the union representing approximately 17,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents, also had a representative in the area accompanied by a journalist from another outlet. The union representative spoke with the Border Patrol agent who demanded that this reporter leave the area. Within minutes, the union representative received a call from a Border Patrol supervisor about his presence in the area. The NBPC Local 3307 union representative, Albert Spratte, told Breitbart Texas, “This area has always been the public road to Rincon Village, it is the only access to the houses there. All of the sudden, we are being told it is restricted and not open to the public or media. A lot of media have been there recently and this hasn’t been told to us before. It is something new.”
Spratte continued, “The agent who removed you spoke with me immediately after the incident. The phone call from Border Patrol management brought to my attention that they only wanted agents in that area now, which is strange because we’ve never been told that before from up top.”
The area of the Rio Grande River south of McAllen, Texas to Anzalduas Park has effectively become ground zero for the Texas border crisis. While some of the activity is occurring near the park and can be witnessed and documented by media, much of the crossing of minors occurs in areas with signs warning U.S. citizens not to enter. Some of the areas are under the care of U.S. Fish and Wildlife, while other areas are private property. Much of the area is controlled by the International Water Boundary Commission (IWBC), and the area around the Anzalduas International Bridge has traditionally been open for media and for anyone going to Rincon Village.
Spratte said that the area is the only access to Rincon Village and that this is why the area is one of the few without posted restrictions to the public. “It is one of the few places that doesn’t have signs restricting access, and therefore one of the few places in this hotspot where media has the ability to see what is really occurring and relate that to the American public,” Spratte said. “For the past several months in that area, media has constantly come down and we have never had a problem with them being kicked out.”
He continued, "That agent said it wasn’t safe for you to be there, and it isn’t the safest place in the world, but it has historically not been restricted to journalists and it is one of the few places where media can actually see what we are dealing with in this crisis. It seems the agent was either intimidated by the threats from management to be fired or criminally charged for telling media what is actually going on, more than he actually thought your life was at risk to be there.”
Breitbart Texas recently reported on the efforts of Border Patrol management to restrict information leaking to the public by threatening possible criminal charges against agents who spoke to media.
Spratte told Breitbart Texas that the Border Patrol agents are being placed under immense pressure in the crisis and that they have to follow their orders from above. He said, “A supervisor in the Border Patrol can't just put out a policy, it has to come from above them in the chain, maybe even as high up as Washington.”
“I think the folks in Washington are embarrassed that we have so little control over what is crossing into our nation right now and they don’t want the American public to have pictures or video of this failure, and this ultimately hurts the public and limits the knowledge they have. The public has a right to know what is really going on here,” said Spratte.
Another Border Patrol agent working in the area spoke with Breitbart Texas on the condition of anonymity. The agent said the public information officers are the only ones allowed to speak with media. “They get their talking points from Washington, D.C., from high level political appointees, and they have to strictly adhere to what they are told to say. This is why it is vital that journalists have access to these areas without the oversight of the federal government,” said the agent.
Breitbart Texas spoke on the matter with the NBPC Local 3307 vice president, Chris Cabrera. He said, “It seems the service at the station or sector level is trying to hide something. Management is sending out emails to agents and intimidating them and trying to restrict the information journalists can obtain. This is a testament to how unsecured the border actually is.”
“Leadership in Washington has consistently told the public that the border is secure or secured enough. This crisis exposes the lack of the truth in those statements and journalists have played a vital role in informing the public,” Cabrera continued. “Had those photos not been leaked and published, we’d still be at square one and there would be no attention down here. Journalists being prohibited from accessing areas to take photos and video of the river border is detrimental. This leaves the public to make decisions based solely upon the official line from Washington.” He added, “Not only do Americans as a whole deserve better, but Border Patrol agents themselves are dependent upon the public understanding what they are dealing with.”
Shawn Moran, the NBPC vice president from the national office, spoke to Breitbart Texas on the matter as well. He largely agreed with Cabrera and said, “The more that CBP [Customs and Border Protection] tries to restrict the media and public attention from this issue, the more it appears they have something to hide.”
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