JACUMBA, Calif.—Two older SUVs appear to come out of nowhere, slowly at first, then kicking up clouds of dust as they pick up speed along the southern side of the U.S.–Mexico border. Two white vans follow them to a gap in the border wall.
With covered faces, smugglers suspected of working for drug cartels exit the vehicles, which bear a mix of California and Mexican license plates. The “coyotes,” as they are known, glare through the slats in the 30-foot-tall border wall, while keeping an eye on their human cargo.
Within seconds, the doors on each vehicle swing open and about 25 eager illegal immigrants jump out of each SUV and 50 from each van.
“Move it! Move it! Move it!” barks one of the coyotes as he turns his back to the wall and waves his arms toward a narrow footpath, strewn with shreds of clothing and stray strands of razor wire, where the wall ends at the base of a steep hill.
The illegal immigrants, a few with children, pick up their pace, dashing a few yards up an incline, around the wall, and into the United States.
The coyotes then disappear into the desert as quickly and efficiently as they had arrived.
The chatter—mostly Spanish and some Mandarin—tapers off as U.S. Border Patrol agents, waiting on site, approach the illegal aliens along the wall to distribute plastic bracelets to them. The 150 new arrivals, mostly solemn but relieved to be out of the clutches of the cartels, march along the wall toward tents and makeshift shelters.
A Border Patrol Mobile Response Unit team stands watch over the camp near Jacumba on the southeastern fringe of San Diego County. One of three illegal immigrant encampments within about a 20-mile span along the border, Willow camp is flanked on the west by 177 camp, south of Boulevard, California, and Moon camp in Imperial County on the east.
Suspected Mexican cartel members drive SUVs containing dozens of illegal immigrants to a gap in the U.S. border wall near Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Illegal Immigrant Surge
A small sampling of illegal immigrants at the camps say they came from China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Mauritania, Colombia, and Brazil.
Sam Schultz, whose family volunteers for a group called Border Kindness and is affiliated with the legal services organization Al Otro Lado, which means “to the other side” in Spanish, delivers food and water to the camps daily.
He told The Epoch Times on Dec. 5, 2023, that he worried about running out of supplies with so many illegal immigrants crossing that day.
Mr. Schultz said that about 30 percent of the illegal immigrants in the latest wave to the Jacumba camps at that time were from China.
Manny Bayon, a National Border Patrol Council union spokesman in San Diego, told The Epoch Times that the number of illegal immigrants released into San Diego County has doubled in the previous two weeks—to 800 to 1,000 per day from 400 to 500.
Dec. 5 and Dec. 6 of last year marked two of the highest days on record for illegal immigrants apprehended at the border in a single day, although exact figures weren’t available, he said. About 1,000 illegal immigrants occupied the three camps on those days alone.
On Dec. 6, Senate Republicans blocked
aid funding to Ukraine and Israel while asking the Biden administration to do something to halt the flow of illegal aliens across the southern border.
With detention facilities over capacity and asylum cases backlogged in the immigration courts for the next decade, Congress should force the Biden administration to secure the border, Mr. Bayon said.
“The Biden administration is not doing anything. They haven’t done anything in the last three years,” he said.
The union fully supports the move to block the budget until the border crisis is solved, Mr. Bayon said.
“They should even withhold funding to sanctuary cities.”
Chicago and New York—both sanctuary cities, which shield illegal immigrants from federal immigration authorities—are now realizing that the surge in illegal immigration over nearly three years is a “bigger mess,” than anyone imagined, he said.
Morale Hits ‘Rock Bottom’
Another Border Patrol agent in Arizona, who spoke to The Epoch Times on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation, said most agents don’t believe they have the support of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas or the Biden administration.
Border Patrol agents feel “100 percent betrayed by Mayorkas and the Biden administration,” he said.
Every patrol station is so over capacity that much of the manpower is going to processing and transporting of illegal immigrants, which leaves fewer agents in the field, he said.
Illegal immigrants wait outside the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, on July 31, 2023. (Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images)
Morale among agents, he said, has hit an all-time low.
“It’s rock bottom, by far the worst I’ve ever seen,” the Border Patrol agent said. “A lot of them are leaving. They’re leaving the patrol. They don’t even have a backup plan—no job. They’re just so sick and tired of having their hands tied.
“Guys are having a hard time even putting on their uniforms. Right now, we’re just Uber drivers. We’re just watching it all happen. We’re watching the destruction of our country.”
Although crossing the border by land anywhere but U.S. ports of entry is illegal, and illegal immigrants could be arrested and deported under current law, Border Patrol personnel have been told to stand down, the source said.
“We’ve been told we can’t stop anybody,” he said.
Meanwhile, the “actual bad guys,” who use illegal immigrants as their drug “mules” to smuggle fentanyl and cocaine, are evading capture.
“There’s no pulse check on that, because everybody is either ... driving, processing, or providing medical attention,” the agent said.
“Agents signed up to defend the border and protect our country, and we’re just not being allowed to do it.”
Drug and sex trafficking have become worse in the United States, leaving agents voiceless and struggling with their consciences, because they know they’re not doing enough to push back against the Mexican cartels, he said.
“This is an absolute cash grab for them. The Biden administration is really helping facilitate it and embolden the cartels, and we have to just stand by, and you’re not allowed to speak about it,” he said. “We took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. We need more people to stand up, and the American people have a right to know what’s going on.”
Manny Bayon, a Border Patrol agent, listens to radio chatter near the border wall in San Diego on May 31, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
From the moment President Joe Biden was sworn into office nearly three years ago, the message has essentially been that the border is open and now is the time for migrants to rush the southern border, he said.
On day one,
the Biden administration signed executive orders and issued memos to temporarily suspend deportations of illegal aliens, reversed former President Donald Trump’s ban on travel from terror-prone countries, halted border wall construction, stopped adding people to the “Remain in Mexico” program, fortified the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and released a sweeping immigration package to Congress that included amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants.
“We’ve never had these kinds of numbers before. You literally have people coming in from all over the world, and in such massive numbers that it’s hard to stop,” the Border Patrol agent said.
National Security Threat
Alarmed by the number of military-age men coming into the country from all over the world, amid conflicts between Israel and Hamas, as well as Ukraine and Russia, the United States needs to tighten border security and step up its vetting process, the border agent said.
With Border Patrol arresting 172 illegal immigrants on the terrorist watchlist in fiscal year 2023
, he’s also worried about military-age men from Middle East countries entering
the United States without rigorous vetting.
“When you take in the totality of what’s going on in the world and what just happened in Israel, we should be on high alert,” he said.
“We know that a lot of these people are being radicalized, and I think we’re going to see terrorist attacks in the next year or two.”
Another border hotspot right now is remote Lukeville, Arizona, where, he said, about 60 to 70 percent of the illegal immigrants are military-aged men.
“When you see military-age males coming in, over and over and over—none of them have kids, none of them have wives—and they’re coming in the thousands, that just raises huge red flags,” the Border Patrol agent said.
On Dec. 5, 2023, alone, border agents apprehended 500 to 600 illegal immigrants near Lukeville, although that number has exceeded 1,000 per day at times, the source said.
Illegal immigrants pass through a gap in the U.S. border wall to await processing by Border Patrol agents in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 7, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
According to the Border Patrol agent, cartel members throw rocks and brandish weapons at Border Patrol agents who try to repair the wall where cartel “breaching teams” have used blow torches and electric saws to cut through the steel posts.
In addition, with cartels also trying to blind Border Patrol agents with lasers, “you don’t know if a bullet is going to follow,” he said.
But bullets aside, even a baseball-sized rock thrown from close range through the slats in the wall could kill an agent, he said.
Some personnel have been attacked by illegal immigrants at the border, and they’re worried that if tensions continue to escalate and they’re caught in a situation in which they have no choice but to fire their weapons to defend themselves, they could face reprimand and legal repercussions, the agent said.
“If agents try to hold the line against aggressive guys in a group, they’re probably going to hang us out to dry,” he said of the Biden administration. “We just know that nobody has our backs.”
of illegal and inadmissible aliens in fiscal 2023—from Oct. 1, 2022, to Sept. 30, 2023—were 3.2 million. In fiscal 2022, that total was more than 2.7 million.
Counting “known gotaways”—illegal immigrants recorded but not caught by Border Patrol—more than 8 million
illegal immigrants have entered the country in less than three years under the Biden administration.
Border Patrol detention facilities are overflowing. Nationally, as of Dec. 8, 2023, there were 17,849 immigrants in custody, with the Tucson sector at 43 percent over capacity.
San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond said in a Dec. 11 statement that more than 50,000 migrants had been released
into San Diego County in less than three months.
“Last week, the Board of Supervisors voted to allocate another $3 million in local tax dollars for migrant services. While I disagreed with the decision, we have now spent $6 million on a federal issue while the problem continues to grow,” he said in a statement.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and DHS officials have denied there is a problem with the Biden administration’s policies and, in a Dec. 11 email to The Epoch Times, pinned the border crisis on Congress for blocking proposed boosts in funding.
Both departments assert that more tax dollars are needed to end the border crisis. But many critics, including Tom Homan, former acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director during the Trump administration, have said
the crisis was created “by design.”
“DHS continues to enforce United States immigration laws, expanding lawful pathways while strengthening enforcement consequences for those who cross our border unlawfully,” a CBP spokesman said in the email.
The Department of Homeland Security flag flies at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in Washington on June 28, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
“Individuals and families without a legal basis to remain in the U.S. are subject to removal pursuant to CBP’s longstanding Title 8 authorities and are subject to a minimum five-year bar on reapplying for admission and potential criminal prosecution if they subsequently re-enter without authorization.”
DHS and CBP declined to release data regarding the total number of illegal immigrants apprehended nationwide on Dec. 5 and 6, 2023, explaining that CBP publishes border enforcement data only once a month and that the December figures won’t be available until January.
Neither department responded to concerns about low morale among Border Patrol agents, increased risk to their safety with fewer agents in the field, and concern that the Biden administration wouldn’t support them should they have to use force to defend themselves.
CBP has claimed that it is “leveraging all available resources and partnerships to efficiently vet and process migrants consistent with law” and is sending “personnel, transportation, processing, and humanitarian resources to the most active and arduous areas throughout San Diego’s border region where migrants are callously placed by for-profit smuggling organizations, often without proper preparation.”
The agency has claimed that it has prevented more than 500,000 migrants from attempting to cross the border illegally between ports of entry, encouraging them to use lawful pathways, such as CBP One
CBP One is a mobile application developed by the Biden administration that allows would-be illegal immigrants to gain pre-clearance for entry via a port of entry after applying south of the border, based on “humanitarian” reasons.
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent monitors hundreds of asylum seekers being processed upon entering the Jacob K. Javits Building in New York City on June 6, 2023. (David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)
DHS has asked Congress for “new authorities” to streamline processing at the border, including provisions that would allow DHS “to hold families in community-based residential facilities and authorize DHS to provide funding to foreign partners to repatriate individuals that they encounter on their way north,” the CBP spokesman said.
“We have an approach that we know works: expanding lawful pathways and delivering consequences for those who do not use them, and the supplemental funding request is needed to conduct our mission,” he said.
“We are targeting the smuggling networks that are preying on vulnerable migrants. We’re undertaking new law enforcement operations to impose consequences on transportation companies, including bus and van lines used by smuggling organizations and nefarious actors to move migrants through northern Mexico and to our southwest border.”
DHS has asked Congress to provide “critically needed funding” for 1,300 additional Border Patrol agents to work alongside the 20,205 agents already included in the 2024 fiscal budget, 300 Border Patrol processing coordinators and support staff to allow agents to “focus on their critical national security mission in the field,” and 1,000 more agents for Homeland Security Investigations.
Among other funding requests, DHS has requested 1,600 more asylum officers and support staff to hear illegal immigrant claims and facilitate timely immigration dispositions, additional detention beds, increased funding for transportation, and 1,470 additional attorneys and support staff to match 375 new immigration judge teams to adjudicate and process immigration cases more quickly and help reduce the caseload backlog.
Illegal immigrants who passed through a gap in the U.S. border wall await processing by Border Patrol agents in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 7, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
DHS also wants more money for CBP, ICE, and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to cover projected shortfalls and hire additional personnel “to help right-size a system that was not built to manage the level of encounters we are experiencing,” according to the email.
Mr. Mayorkas told CNN on Dec. 6 that the immigration system “has been broken for decades,” and the DHS has been underfunded “for years and years.”
President Biden has addressed both issues “with strength” since his first day in office and presented Congress with legislation to fix the immigration system, he said.
“We have submitted to Congress a supplemental funding bill that will resource our department, the heroic Border Patrol agents ... to fund them, as they need to address what is an unprecedented level of migration, not only at our southern border, not only in the Western Hemisphere, but throughout the world,” Mr. Mayorkas said.
He urged Congress to increase funding to DHS, the Department of Justice “for additional immigration judges,” the State Department for “refugee programs,” “efforts ... in the international arena,” and to cities dealing with “an unprecedented situation not just domestically but internationally.”
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