An email interview conducted by Houston Chronicle staff writer Dylan Baddour went south for him when he attempted to interview me for a PolitiFact Texas article. The interview quickly turned into a reverse interview and his answers revealed just how much the writer does not know about the Texas border with Mexico. It also revealed a very concerning attitude and lack of maturity in the perspective of someone working at the Houston Chronicle and covering border safety for the people of Houston.
Breitbart Texas broke a story revealing that Syrians currently have access to the porous U.S.-Mexico border, specifically in Texas. The sources for the story used the word “caught” as they brought attention to the matter that would have otherwise remained unknown to the public. Due to the use of that one word in an accurate report revealing people from a nation partly controlled by ISIS currently have access to our porous border with Mexico, the folks from the Houston Chronicle and other left-leaning news outlets claim that our report was full of “inaccuracies,” though when questioned on that claim one Houston Chronicle writer admitted the only alleged “inaccuracy” was the use of that one word.
The interview began when Baddour emailed me. He asked:
Now that this story has become of large national interest, I’m writing for PolitiFact Texas on Gov. Abbott’s tweet alleging eight Syrian’s were “caught” at the Texas border. He cited your work.
I’d like to talk with you for inclusion in the piece regarding how your sources’ accounts support the rhetoric that they were caught while trying to enter Texas.
Federal reports say they identified themselves to agents at the point of entry as is consistent with procedure and a near-daily occurrence, which other Syrians have also used.
Basically the question is: Why did you say they were “caught?”
Realizing I had gotten in between two liberal news outlets and their desire to attack Republican leaders, I responded:
Thanks for reaching out. The sources used the word “caught” because, according to them, the Syrians attempted to enter at the port of entry, as we reported, and only acknowledged being Syrian after they were called out. They were then taken into custody.
CBP, unfortunately, has a history of being deceptive with the public.
In addition, please keep in mind that CBP didn’t inform the public of this very significant turn of events until we reported it.
Further, I’m curious about the priorities displayed in your question. Do you feel that engaging in a semantical critique of the governor over the use of the official term “caught or apprehended” is a larger deal than Syrians showing up at our Southwest border? The fact that it reveals a line or pathway for people from that region to show up there?
This is where I realized the Houston Chronicle writer had no clue as to what he was talking about and that the people of Houston and Texas should be worried that their “news” was coming from this guy. He claimed “dozens” of Syrians had shown up at the Texas border in recent months and that it wasn’t a big deal or newsworthy. He wrote:
Regarding your later questions: that will depend on what I hear back from the governor’s office. Caught implies that they were evading authorities, had broken the law, were being deceptive or were trying to gain access illegally. That in turn, given current media narratives, could imply that they may be militants coming in and trying to stage something. But again, I’m waiting to hear from the Gov what he meant to say.
Because it seems like they were just two of the dozens of Syrian families who, over recent months, have presented themselves as asylum seekers at Texas border POEs.
The fact that Syrians are capable of getting to Texas isn’t much of news. (Emphasis mine)
Not “much of news” that dozens of Syrians can reach the Texas border with Mexico? When ISIS controls portions of that nation? Even after the Paris attacks that revealed ISIS is reaching out across borders to kill us?
How would our reporting that they were “two family units” imply they were militants?
I disagree with you that proof of a pipeline from Syria to the U.S.-Mexico border “isn’t much of news.”
Lastly, I find your concern about the word our sources used when they (and we) clearly reported that it was at a specific port of entry to be laughable.
We are writing about certain left-of-center outlets using a semantics argument when we clearly reported “at a port of entry.” I hope to see your report so my mocking of left media can have a few more words. Thanks for the giggle.
I then sent him all of the dictionary definitions for the word “caught” and showed that the word was an accurate one to be used in the context the sources used it on our exclusive.
Then I drilled down on his false claims about the border:
I wanted to see if you would clarify something for me that you wrote. Specifically, “Because it seems like they were just two of the dozens of Syrian families who, over recent months, have presented themselves as asylum seekers at Texas border POEs.”
Where did you get the data that dozens of Syrians have turned themselves over at Texas border POEs?
I’ve searched your byline and the outlets you write for and I have not seen this reported.
He ignored my questions and offered to inform me about the process for asylum and insisted that showing up at the border was the only recourse Syrians had. He wrote:
Also, I should note, the Southwest border is about the only place that Syrians can claim asylum (which is different from refugee status—that allows them to petition for asylum outside of the country), experts agree. Syrians will not get visa approval to fly to the United States or Canada. Sometimes not even Mexico—those with good money fly to Central America.
In order to petition for asylum, a seeker must first be on American soil. So southern border checkpoints are about the only place that is possible.
If you’d like to know more about this process before you report about it, I can point you to some sources.
I doubled down and asked the questions he ignored again:
Am I missing something? I don’t see where you or the Houston Chronicle reported that dozens of Syrians have showed up at our Texas border POEs.
Am I correct that you or your outlet have not reported this?
Also, do you agree that “good people” from Syria showing up shows that the “bad people” can also get there? Do you understand the ramifications of that considering that much of the 5 sectors in Texas are unsecured?
He then partially answered my questions and got arrogant. He argued that bad people are already in America so more bad people–meaning ISIS in this case–being here isn’t a big deal.
We have not reported it. I only learned it yesterday in my reporting. It was pretty easy.
Yes I know there are good people and bad people. They are also in the United States. So let’s put everyone in prison just in case someone is plotting a crime.
I asked again where he learned about “dozens of Syrians” showing up at the border in “recent months.” He first insisted that he had already sent an email with the information to me that I just didn’t get by accident. Then he sent another email admitting that he was wrong and that his claims were untrue. Keep in mind, this is the claim he based his entire criticism on by asserting our exclusive wasn’t newsworthy and that it only got attention because our source used the word “caught.” After revealing he was still unable to produce any data that he claimed to know, he wrote:
Sorry, I was somewhat mistaken there. I thought I was looking at data for FY15 but it was FY14, which ended Sept 2014. I don’t know how many Syrian families have sought refuge here this year. But those FY14 numbers came from federal data, federal officials I spoke with and immigration lawyers who represent the people. The only way people can seek asylum is to appear at the border, so it is quite common.
I drilled down again:
So if your premise was “how is this different than the dozens of others from Syria” and they don’t exist, do you now agree that this highlights that a pipeline from Syria to the U.S.-Mexico border exists?
Do you see how that could be a problem if Syrians can achieve that? Considering that there do exist some who want to kill Americans?
Baddour never responded once his premise was deflated.
Follow Breitbart Texas Managing Director Brandon Darby on Twitter: @brandondarby