While migrant apprehensions have swelled for three straight months to record highs, Border Patrol agents say that the official figure only represents half the story.
In May there were a record 239,416 border apprehensions, a figure which includes some who try to cross multiple times, and 177,793 unique individuals who were apprehended.
Agent Chris Cabrera, a spokesman for the National Border Patrol Council for the Rio Grande Valley, and agent Juan Hernandez, a union rep, told DailyMail.com in a ride-along trip to the Rio Grande Valley border sector that oftentimes nearly double that number actually attempt to cross the border.
‘We’re lucky if we’re at a 50 percent apprehension rate,’ said Cabrera.
The official figure does not account for ‘gotaways,’ those who agents spotted but could not catch, and those who cross without any interaction with border agents in regions where security is sparse.
Chris Olivarez, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) for the South Texas Region, said that so far for fiscal year 2022, with four months left to go, law enforcement has counted 400,000 gotaways. In all of fiscal year 2021, they counted 390,000 gotaways.
‘The government, Border Patrol, they’re real good at fudging the numbers,’ Hernandez added. ‘Some days they tell us, “Oh there were 1,000 apprehensions and 13 gotaways.” There’s no way there were only 13 gotaways.’
Agents classify border crossers into four groups – gotaways, those who hand themselves over to authorities without a fight expecting their initial asylum claims to be successful, ‘runners,’ those who try to outrun agents but are caught, and ‘turnbacks,’ those who get scared and turn back toward Mexico once they’re caught.
A group of migrants, mostly from Honduras, approach Border Patrol during a ride-along with lawmakers and press
The group included about 12, about three adults and nine children
The group were apprehended in McAllen, Texas, the Rio Grande Valley border sector
The group were classified as ‘runners,’ meaning they tried to evade border agents to cross into the U.S.
An unaccompanied little boy, around 8, is given a bag for his belongings, though he does not appear to have any, and told to get in Border Patrol’s truck
Rep. Jodey Arrington noted to DailyMail.com that in fiscal year 2022 there have been 50 people on the FBI’s terrorist watch list apprehended at the border so far in fiscal year 2022.
‘That’s just what we catch,’ he said. ‘Nobody talks about the gotaways’
One 14-year-old girl, Amy, told DailyMail.com, border agents and GOP members of the House Economic Subcommittee as she was being detained by agents that her parents had sent her to travel for two months from El Salvador to get to the border. She spoke perfect English – she’d already spent five years in the U.S. until her family moved home due to ‘visa problems.’
Seemingly unfazed by her treacherous journey, Amy said she’d been traveling with her cousin but the pair got separated along the way. No worry to her – they’d be reunited at her aunt’s house in Tennessee after they were processed, she said.
Clutching her birth certificate, a phone and charger, Amy said she had not come along with a trafficker, but had found other migrants to walk with on the journey, showing up to agents in a group of about 12, mostly unaccompanied children and about 3 adults. ‘Babies got lost along the way,’ she said.
‘You think about it, her childhood is just gone,’ Hernandez said. Cabrera pointed out a spot where he’d recently saw a 9-year-old boy drop dead of heat exhaustion – an encounter he said is not uncommon.
Agents noted that some kids they encountered were sent toward the border with Plan B birth control strapped on their body, expecting to be raped along the way.
‘If the left really cared about these kids, they’d be here with us,’ Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., told DailyMail.com.
Democrats on the Select Committee on Economic Disparity joined the Republicans Friday morning for the first congressional hearing at the southern border of this Congress, but the focus of the hearing was the community’s infrastructure needs.
‘What’s fascinating to me is they want to talk about infrastructure, we’re here at the border and they want to talk about infrastructure,’ said Rep. Stephanie Bice, R-Okla.
‘It’s just terrible we’re encouraging that by telling people come over here by whatever means necessary,’ Cabrera said. The Biden administration often warns migrants not to make the dangerous journey northward, but parents know if they send their children they will not be turned away.
‘We’ve found two year old, three year olds, five year olds nine year olds dead in the brush from exposure. How many is an acceptable number?’ questioned Hernandez.
Border Patrol agents show a group of GOP lawmakers, Florida law enforcement and press a section of the Rio Grande known for frequent crossings
Two unaccompanied minors sit on the ground clutching their belongings before being told to get in the truck to be taken into detention
A migrant mother, father and their child wait to be processed by Border Patrol
Hernandez and Cabrera said that for each child that needs medical care, a border agent must accompany them to the hospital and wait for them to be seen.
‘We shouldn’t but we get volunteered for everything,’ he said. ‘If you have 10 kids that need to go to the hospital you have to send 10 agents.’ ‘If you have 15 agents in the field then 10 are gone,’ Cabrera added.
‘When our primary job is gone, we gotta go babysit, that’s where a lot of our problems come in our agents,’ said Hernandez. ‘They love the work, but where you’re taking them in to go babysit at the hospital or to change Pampers it’s like, I didn’t sign up for that the Border Patrol description that I’m supposed to be doing.’
After the children’s supposed relatives are located, they are put on planes and sent along their way. Border agents told DailyMail.com that oftentimes a DNA test is sent out to a lab to prove relation through Health and Human Services (HHS), but the tests never come back. Children are sent along their way with no proof of whether the person they’re sent to stay with is actually of any relation to them.
‘If they test them then they’re liable if it comes up false,’ Dominic Violante, McAllen’s chief Border Patrol union representative said. ‘They’d rather just bury their head in the sand.’
Another woman, Sandra from El Salvador, showed up with her two sons, holding only paperwork to serve as proof that she was a survivor of domestic abuse for her asylum claim.
Another man was found closely clutching a sleeping child. ‘Who knows if that’s his, he could be using him to get through and not be processed under Title 42,’ one agent said.
Border Patrol has the budget allowance for about 3,500 agents in the Rio Grande Valley sector. Now, they’re currently operating with 2,000-2,2000.
And it’s not just manpower that is stretched thin – agents estimated that their facilities are sometimes operating at over 10 times their capacity.
‘We’ll have a facility that’s 230 people, we’ll have literally 3,000 people in there. And they’ll say we can’t let the media in because of Covid protocols,’ he said.
Agents are retiring in record numbers, according to Hernandez and Cabrera, in part due to the renewing of catch-and-release practices under the Biden administration.
‘We’re by ourselves out here so I’m out here chasing people through the brush running twisting an ankle catching people then they’re releasing them,’ said Hernandez.
‘So they’re like, “Thank you for doing all that but we’re going to release them.” It’s like what? I just twisted my ankle and my back and worker’s comp won’t cover you, you know all that stuff.’
‘Agents are getting tired, agents are retiring or quitting or switching over because at this moment they don’t feel that we get treated correctly,’ he said.
‘Guys are leaving as soon as they’re eligible, I’ve never seen it before,’ said Cabrera.
Border agents are eligible for retirement at age 50, but historically have aged out at 57 or sometimes longer.
‘Now guys are going the first day they’re eligible they’re out,’ Cabrera said.
The agents also sounded off about reports that agents involved in the September 2021 ‘whipping’ controversy will be punished.
The agents sounded off about reports that agents involved in the September 2021 ‘whipping’ controversy will be punished
Viral photos last year at the height of the Haitian migrant surge showed horse-riding border agents swinging their whips either near or at migrants, prompting outcry all the way up to President Biden, who promised at the time he would ‘make them pay’
Viral photos last year at the height of the Haitian migrant surge showed horse-riding border agents swinging their whips either near or at migrants, prompting outcry all the way up to President Biden, who promised at the time he would ‘make them pay.’
Border Patrol agents, meanwhile said that the agents involved were likely swinging their whips to control their horses.
Fox News reported earlier this week that DHS is preparing to hand out punishments to the agents involved.
‘I think it’s nonsense,’ said Cabrera. ‘I don’t think they had a shot at a fair hearing with the president saying “you’re gonna pay.”‘
‘If they did anything – which I doubt – I think they’ve been punished enough already. I think they’ve been disciplined enough already.’
Cabrera added: ‘That’s how you work a working horse. This is not those people in England with the little funny hats riding on horses. It’s a different way of riding a horse.’
And while federal border agents feel their resources are being stretched thin, Texas has spent $2 billion of state money on border security, mostly under Operation Lonestar, an initiative executed by Gov. Greg Abbott in March 2021 to secure the border when he perceived a lack of action by the Biden administration.
The operation deployed Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and National Guard to back up border agents, but a frenzied deployment coupled with little border authority have led some agents to complain that their time on the deployment is being wasted.
Approximately 1,600 of the state’s 3,000 DPS officers have been deployed to the southern border. At its peak, about 10,000 National Guard members were deployed, but that number is in flux since agents have less authority.
Protecting the U.S. border falls to the federal government. DPS and National Guard do not have the same processing powers as Border Patrol – if they encounter migrants they must hold them and wait until CBP agents can pick them up.
But in some regions, those agents have started a criminal trespassing initiative, where they arrest those who cross illegally on criminal trespassing rather than unlawful crossing if they are found on private property. To do so requires getting prosecutors and the county judge on board to take the case, as well as property owners to bring forth charges.
Such efforts have so far secured one conviction.