Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) sent letters to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Friday, demanding to know why the Joe Biden administration banned drones operated by news outlets from filming the migrant surge near the Del Rio, Texas border region, Breitbart News has learned exclusively.
Johnson, the former chair of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, demanded to know why the FAA issued a two-week temporary flight restriction (TFR) in the area surrounding the U.S.-Mexico border in Del Rio, Texas. Johnson noted that the TFR has prevented news organizations from using drones to obtain footage of the migrant crisis at the American southwest border.
“Any government stifling of First Amendment activities is unacceptable,” Johnson said in the letter to FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson, which Breitbart News obtained.
Johnson said the drone footage the border really revealed dramatic details about the border surge nine months into President Joe Biden’s administration:
The media has been using drones to cover the crisis at the border for months. In August, reporters used drones to cover thousands of migrants held by Border Patrol under the Anzalduas Bridge in Mission, Texas. Drone footage captured a group of runners climb the fence and escape into the United States while Border Patrol agents processed family units a few thousand feet away. Drone footage was also used to report on human smuggling operations from the Gulf Cartel in the Rio Grande Valley in June.
On September 16, 2021, a reporter with Fox News reported on a surge of migrants massing at the U.S. border in Del Rio, Texas. The reporter flew a drone to obtain footage of thousands of migrants under a bridge waiting to be processed by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers. The disturbing images illustrate the gravity of the immigration crisis at our southwest border. As of the evening of September 16, 2021, there were over 10,000 migrants encamped under the Del Rio International Bridge.
Fox News’s Bill Melugin showed footage of their drones that captured much of the migrant surge at the Del Rio region:
More footage. Major thank you to Texas DPS. When the FAA grounded our drones, DPS was willing to get us in the air to show ongoing deteriorating situation at the bridge. The situation is in Del Rio is completely out of control. @FoxNews pic.twitter.com/8RUXheV8gk
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) September 17, 2021
The Wisconsin senator noted that the FAA claimed that the CBP said drones interfered with law enforcement flights.
“It is unclear how drones flown by news organizations interfered with law enforcement flights on the border,” Johnson wrote.
Drones have been a vital tool for news media to tell the complete story of the unmitigated crisis at the border. Border apprehensions have averaged more than 6,700 per day in July and August. Border Patrol sectors across the country are overwhelmed with the volume of migrants crossing our border.
Subsequently, Johnson demanded to know the “special security reason” why the FAA issued the TFR over Del Rio, Texas, and why drones operated by news outlets interfered with law enforcement.
In Johnson’s letter to CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller, he demanded to know about the CBP request to the FAA for a TFR in the Del Rio region.
“The American public have a right to know the crisis that is happening on our borders and the suppression of the media’s ability to tell that story is deeply troubling,” Johnson said in the letter to Miller.
Breitbart News’s Border team has documented the enormous degree to which the Del Rio, Texas, region has become a migrant hotbed. Breitbart News’s Bob Price noted the apprehension of migrants across the border rose more than 190 percent since Biden became president nine months ago. The CBP has apprehended over 32,000 migrants at the Del Rio border region.
Breitbart News’s Randy Clark had a law enforcement source within CBP tell Breitbart Texas that the Haitian migrant crisis forced the agency to shut down normal operations at inland Del Rio highway checkpoints.
Clark reported Friday that a law enforcement source said Friday that the total number of migrant detainees held at a makeshift camp had exceeded 12,o00.
Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.