Mexican Military Incursions on US Soil Worry Border Agents

Mexican Military Incursions on US Soil Worry Border Agents

(The Epoch Times)

Brad Jones

Brad Jones

3/11/2024

Updated: 4/4/2024

SAN DIEGO—As daylight begins to fade at an abandoned illegal immigrant camp at the border wall near Jacumba, in California’s San Diego County, a couple of Mexican soldiers armed with assault rifles patrol the rocky terrain in the hills above.
Below them, white tents along the Mexican side of the border wall signal the army presence as Mexican national guard (Guardia Nacional) troops pull up in a truck. They set up camp here in early February.
On Feb. 29, a Mexican soldier hides behind a rock as he realizes reporters have seen him on the U.S. side of the border. Several moments later, he ducks back under the barbed wire fence into Mexico.
Manny Bayon, a National Border Patrol Council spokesman in San Diego, said usually any incursion by the Mexican military is directly reported to headquarters and the White House is notified.
After watching an Epoch Times video of the Mexican soldier in the hills above the San Judas break, Mr. Bayon said it’s obvious that the soldier was on U.S. soil.
“They should know better,” he told The Epoch Times. “There’s a boundary marker on top of that hill. I’ve been up there. I’ve seen it.”
Any incursion presents a risk to the safety of Border Patrol agents, Mr. Bayon said.
“When you have somebody with an automatic weapon coming into the U.S., it’s concerning. I mean, they’re not coming here with flowers or to make things better,” he said. “It’s concerning because they do counter surveillance on us.”
And, just because someone wearing a uniform appears to be Mexican military, doesn’t necessarily mean they are, Mr. Bayon said.
“The cartels have also used military uniforms to make it look like they are military—but they’re actually cartel,” he said.
(Top) A video of the Mexican soldier walking from the U.S. side of the border back to the Mexican side, on Feb. 29, 2024. (Bottom) Footage of Mexican military members converse on the Mexican side of the border, on Feb. 29, 2024. (The Epoch Times)

(Top) A video of the Mexican soldier walking from the U.S. side of the border back to the Mexican side, on Feb. 29, 2024. (Bottom) Footage of Mexican military members converse on the Mexican side of the border, on Feb. 29, 2024. (The Epoch Times)

A Border Patrol agent in Arizona, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, told The Epoch Times that no incursions go unanswered.
“Any time Mexican military comes on our side, we’re always notified. It’s a big deal,” he said. “We have guys that are liaisons with the south side, so they’re going to be notified, and there is definitely going to be phone calls made immediately.”
Sometimes, he said, it’s Mexican soldiers not knowing where the boundary is or they get lost, especially in remote areas where it’s not as cut and dry, he said.
“But then there are certain areas where it’s very clear,” he said. “We try to play nice with them, because for the most part they’re the same with us.”
“We don’t come in like guns blazing. Typically, we try to defuse the situation and their chain of command is notified. It’s not something that we just allow to happen. There’s definitely people notified immediately. It’s always a big deal if they come over onto the U.S. side and vice-versa.”
Footage of the Mexican soldier walking from the U.S. side of the border back to the Mexican side, on Feb. 29, 2024. (The Epoch Times)

Footage of the Mexican soldier walking from the U.S. side of the border back to the Mexican side, on Feb. 29, 2024. (The Epoch Times)

Less than three months ago, the gap at the end of this border wall where the military tents now sit, was a pedestrian highway for thousands of foreign nationals entering the U.S. illegally from Mexico.
Mexican smugglers routinely dropped off their human cargo at a footpath leading to the narrow gap, called the San Judas break, where the 30-foot border wall ends at the steep hillside.
In February, Kate Monroe, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Republican congressional candidate in District 49 who lost in the March 5 primary election, bought a 400-foot coil of razor wire off Amazon and blocked the gap. The razor wire is still there.
A few hundred yards away on the American side at a site known as Willow camp to the U.S. Border Patrol agents, little remains of the dozens of firepits and makeshift shelters where hundreds of illegal immigrants waited to be transported and processed after surrendering to agents in December 2023.
Two other sites—known as Moon and 177 camps—close to known illegal crossing sites near the small towns of Jacumba and Boulevard on the southeastern fringe of the county, are also now patrolled by the Mexican military, according to the Border Patrol.
For all the military presence, illegal crossings haven’t substantially dipped in the area. On March 6, 1,132 illegal immigrants were apprehended in the San Diego sector, which is within the average daily range over the last several weeks, according to Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council.
“We have not seen a drop in total arrests,” he told The Epoch Times.

(Top) An illustration with red markings highlighting the border wall and fencing that separates the United States (L) and Mexico (R), near Jacoumba, Calif. , on Feb. 29, 2024. (Bottom) Members of the Mexican military patrol the Mexican side of the border. (The Epoch Times, John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

(Top) An illustration with red markings highlighting the border wall and fencing that separates the United States (L) and Mexico (R), near Jacoumba, Calif. , on Feb. 29, 2024. (Bottom) Members of the Mexican military patrol the Mexican side of the border. (The Epoch Times, John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A Deal with Mexico?

Todd Bensman, a senior national security fellow at the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies and former counterterrorism intelligence officer, told The Epoch Times that according to Mexican soldiers he interviewed, they’re rounding up migrants near the U.S. border and moving them south.
“They said their orders are to hunt down all immigrants and give them to Mexican immigration for deportation to their southern provinces. They also told me their deployments are open ended,” Mr. Bensman said.
The increased Mexican military presence along the border coincides with a flurry of bilateral talks.
President Biden hosted bilateral meetings with his Mexican counterpart on Nov. 17, 2023, and spoke with him over the phone on Dec. 22, 2023, which led to a Dec.. 27, 2023, meeting between the Mexican president and a U.S. delegation, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, preceding President Biden’s trip to Mexico City on Jan. 9.
“Secretary Blinken will discuss unprecedented irregular migration in the Western Hemisphere and identify ways Mexico and the United States will address border security challenges,” said a State Department spokesman prior to the meeting.
The spokesman also said Mr. Blinken would reaffirm U.S. commitment to the Los Angeles Declaration for Migration and Protection, and “underscore the urgent need for lawful pathways and additional enforcement actions by partners throughout the region.”
After their return, Mexico “mounted one of the most epic domestic anti-illegal-immigration operations in recent memory,” Mr. Bensman wrote.
He surmised the Biden administration may have “cut a deal” with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to crackdown on illegal immigrants headed northward. Both presidents have elections this year.
“The Mexican army is all over the northern border now doing different kinds of interdiction across from Texas, they’re hunting down immigrants aggressively. And when they find them, they force them onto buses and ship them south,” Mr. Bensman said.
“They are interdicting the traffic on top of the freight trains, blocking access to the rail yards, and pulling immigrants off the trains,” he said. “This is all part of a Biden-inspired and directed Mexican crackdown that is nationwide for Mexico.”
In January, Border Patrol agents apprehended 124,220 illegal immigrants along the southern border, CBP data show. It’s a 50-percent decrease from the record surge of 249,735 in December 2023.
American news outlets have essentially ignored Mexico’s actions while “the Mexican media has been all over this,” Mr. Bensman said.
One Mexican newspaper reported the Mexican government is “under U.S. pressure” to step up its military operations in Tijuana, Juarez, and Matamoros—cities across from San Diego, El Paso, and Brownsville, respectively. In Matamoros, the military recently bulldozed a massive migrant camp and dug anti-pedestrian trenches.

(Top) Illegal immigrants walk through a gap in the U.S. border wall to await processing by Border Patrol agents in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 7, 2023. (Bottom L) Encampments near the U.S. border wall in Jacumba, Calif., on Jan. 10, 2024. (Bottom R) Luggage belonging to illegal immigrants in Jacumba. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

(Top) Illegal immigrants walk through a gap in the U.S. border wall to await processing by Border Patrol agents in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 7, 2023. (Bottom L) Encampments near the U.S. border wall in Jacumba, Calif., on Jan. 10, 2024. (Bottom R) Luggage belonging to illegal immigrants in Jacumba. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The Biden administration may have used its leverage to press Mexico “to crack down in an unprecedented, widespread way on illegal migration through Mexican territory, to reduce the negative political optics of large-scale crossings at the U.S. border ahead of the 2024 presidential election,” Mr. Bensman wrote.
Although Mexico has deployed its military and national guard to the border in the past, this operation “seems longer-term than the others,” he said.
It’s unclear how the cartel’s operations are reacting to the Mexican military crackdown, but Mr. Bensman said “they’re still obviously making bank” moving illegal immigrants into California and Arizona.
“Mexico is obviously still providing some kind of an escape hatch in Arizona and in California because they’re still crossing in large numbers in the open,” he said. “It’s not a hermetic seal, obviously.”
Illegal crossings nationwide have fallen from the record surge of more than 12,600 in a single day on Dec. 19 to about 5,000 or 6,000 a day, which “is not nirvana,” Mr. Bensman said.
“That’s still a complete catastrophe.”

Political Posturing

A day after President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump held dueling press conferences in Texas on Feb. 29—President Biden at Brownsville and President Trump at Eagle Pass—California Gov. Gavin Newsom made a late afternoon trip to the California border.
Mr. Newsom stopped at Willow camp where he was briefed by Border Patrol officials and the California National Guard. Nowhere in sight were the usual illegal immigrants, makeshift shelters and ramshackle tents, or trash strewn across the dirt—only razor wire and the Mexican military.
“It was sanitized. Nobody was there,” said Mr. Bayon.
A day earlier, on Feb. 29, about 50 illegal immigrants surrendered to Border Patrol agents about five miles east of Jacumba at Moon camp along Interstate 8.
And, within about two hours dozens more, including some from China, crossed through an unfinished part of the wall at Otay Mountain just east of Tijuana, some exhausted, thirsty, and hungry after walking miles up and down sharp inclines along the windy dirt road.
Near the base of the mountain, a group of about 20 illegal immigrants—including several from the Republic of Guinea in West Africa—waited to give themselves up to Border Patrol.
Hundreds more were released by the Border Patrol to the streets of San Diego at Iris transit center in San Ysidro. During the last week of February, more than 5,000 illegal immigrants were released at transit centers in San Ysidro, Oceanside, and El Cajon, according to Border Patrol sources.

(Top) President Joe Biden speaks with Customs and Border Protection officers during a visit to the Brownsville Station in Olmito, Texas, on Feb. 29, 2024. (Bottom L) Todd Bensman, senior national security fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies. (Bottom R) A Border Patrol agent listens to radio chatter, near the border wall of San Diego, Calif., on May 31, 2023. (Cheney Orr/Getty Images, Jack Wang/The Epoch Times, John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

(Top) President Joe Biden speaks with Customs and Border Protection officers during a visit to the Brownsville Station in Olmito, Texas, on Feb. 29, 2024. (Bottom L) Todd Bensman, senior national security fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies. (Bottom R) A Border Patrol agent listens to radio chatter, near the border wall of San Diego, Calif., on May 31, 2023. (Cheney Orr/Getty Images, Jack Wang/The Epoch Times, John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Mr. Bayon told The Epoch Times that while he’s glad the governor went to the border, Mr. Newson missed the “chaos going on down here,” in December.
“He drives all the way to Jacumba instead of stopping here in San Diego and then moving his way over there,” Mr. Bayon said.
“He is the governor of California. He could have checked out the whole southern border within a few hours, but he decided just to go to that particular area where we know it’s a dog and pony show where the U.S. government cleans it up as much as they can to make it look like it’s not a problem. But, it is a problem.”
On the day of the governor’s tour, dozens of illegal immigrants arrived at the border wall near Dairy Mart Road in San Diego, reaching between the steel pillars to grab bottles of water, fresh bananas and snacks set out for them on a table inside an open tent owned by a San Diego-based coalition of nonprofit groups offering humanitarian aid.
Wilson Perez, 24, from Guatemala, told The Epoch Times between the slats in the wall that he climbed the primary wall near Tijuana and was waiting between it and the secondary wall to surrender to the U.S. Border Patrol. Others said they were from Guatemala, Peru, Brazil, and Jamaica.

Border Security Bill

After his border tour, Mr. Newsom issued a statement accusing Republicans of sabotaging “bipartisan” efforts to end the border crisis.
“Republicans in Congress have done nothing but create chaos and sabotage” to block any attempts at progress,” he said.
“They shot down the bipartisan border security deal.”
However, Mr. Newsom didn’t mention that the proposed $118 billion omnibus spending bill contained tens of billions of taxpayer dollars for military aid to Israel and Ukraine, far exceeding the amount for border security—the reason House Republicans called it “dead on arrival” and rejected it. Instead, he defended the White House.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is briefed by the California National Guard during a visit to the U.S.–Mexico border on March 1, 2024. (Office of Governor Gavin Newson)California Gov. Gavin Newsom is briefed by the California National Guard during a visit to the U.S.–Mexico border on March 1, 2024. (Office of Governor Gavin Newson)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is briefed by the California National Guard during a visit to the U.S.–Mexico border on March 1, 2024. (Office of Governor Gavin Newson)

“On his first day in office, President Biden put forward a comprehensive plan focused on securing our border, ensuring Dreamers have a permanent home in our country, and helping businesses address their needs for workers,” he said.
But, Mr. Judd said, Mr. Newsom is “dead wrong” to blame Republicans.
“Newsom couldn’t be more wrong, and he knows it,” he told The Epoch Times in a text message.
With 50 to 60 percent of Border Patrol personnel “tied up” on processing illegal immigrants instead of patrolling the border, Mr. Bayon said Mr. Newsom could help by sending some National Guard to help, as other governors have done, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the governors from Florida, South Dakota, Georgia, and Tennessee. In total, 14 states have sent National Guard troops to the Texas border since 2021.
“This is not just the southern border states’ problem. It’s everybody’s problem, but they’re trying to blame the Republicans,” Mr. Bayon said. “Let’s cut to the chase. Let’s all work together and secure America.”
Mr. Newsom’s office didn’t respond to questions about his visit to the quietest part of the San Diego border area and if he intends to take a tougher stance against illegal immigration.

State of the Union

During his State of the Union address on March 7, President Biden deflected criticism about his handling of the border crisis, and blamed Republicans for rejecting the “bipartisan” border security bill, which he said would have paid for 1,500 additional agents and officers, 100 immigration judges to tackle the backlog of 2 million court cases, and 4,300 more “asylum officers” to resolve cases in six months “instead of six years.”
When President Biden claimed the bill contained “the toughest set of border security reforms we’ve ever seen,” Republicans groaned., and President Biden sarcastically responded, “Oh, you don’t think so? Oh, you don’t like that bill that conservatives got together and said was a good bill? I’ll be darned. That’s amazing.”
The speech was “a slap in the face to all Americans who want a secure border,” Mr. Judd said.
“[Biden] had the opportunity to be the grownup in the room and announce what he was going to do to protect Americans, but he didn’t. He acted like a child and played the blame game,” he said.
And, contrary to the Democrats’ claims, Biden doesn’t need the approval of Congress to end the border crisis, Mr. Judd said.
“Legislation would be nice because it lives beyond administrations, unlike executive actions, but he does not need legislation to secure the border. He has the authority right now.”
U.S. apprehensions of illegal and inadmissible immigrants during the two-year period from Oct. 1, 2021, to Sept. 30, 2023, totalled 5.9 million.
Including known gotaways”—those whom Border Patrol agents record but don’t catch—more than 9.2 million illegal immigrants have entered the country since President Biden was sworn into office.
In the first four months of the 2024 fiscal year, border officials have apprehended more than 1.2 million illegal immigrants, according to CBP data.
DHS and CBP didn’t respond to inquiries about the Mexican military, nor did CBP respond to a question about the course of action should Mexican military members venture into the United States.
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Brad Jones

Brad Jones

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Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.

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