Claim They're Going Shopping: Border Officials Allow Hundreds Of Mexican Vehicles To Cross Despite Trump Ban
Customs and Border Protection officials are defying the Trump administration’s directive to block all nonessential foreign travel into the United States from Mexico, allowing noncitizens claiming to be on shopping trips to continue entering, according to two officials involved in the implementation of the order.
CBP employees in Arizona told the Washington Examiner Saturday they were instructed Friday night at the start of the executive order and again this morning not to turn around noncitizens who said they were coming in to shop, visit family, or for medical appointments. By Saturday morning, “hundreds” of vehicles that should have been blocked at the port of entry had been allowed through, two officials said.
“We’re letting them through. And that’s pretty much the gist of it,” one official said. “Nobody’s enforcing it. It was put up — the president put it out. The chief patrol put it out. And we’re just not doing it.”
“In plain English, it was a giant shit show,” said a second official. “Nobody followed the directive, a plain and simple directive. You’re trying to keep the coronavirus from going north … yet you just let it bleed through anyway, so you’re not doing the job you’re directed to. That’s what’s aggravating.”
CBP’s Office of Field Operations officers who inspect vehicles at the border crossings were supposed to begin at 9 p.m. PT Friday turning away all noncitizens unless they had a permit to work in the U.S., are a legal permanent resident, or are a student. However, officers were told by supervisors not to do so, according to sources.
Border Patrol agents familiar with operations at highway checkpoints located north of the ports of entry said employees at checkpoints were caught off guard late Friday when cars with Mexican license plates continued arriving since they should have been blocked at the border.
Agents continued to see vehicles with plates from the Mexican state of Sonora, which runs up along the entirety of Arizona.
“I’m asking in Spanish and English, whatever they can understand, ‘Where are you guys going?’ And it was either they’re going shopping at Walmart, or they’re going to visit family, which is not essential,” said a Border Patrol agent. This source added that he was confused about why people who had passed Walmart after crossing the border were driving further north instead of returning to Mexico. Others who passed through overnight claimed to have doctor’s appointments.
Agents said Border Patrol managers ordered them against turning around any cars. In more than 10 hours, not a single vehicle was turned around out of hundreds that passed through and did not meet U.S. standards for admission.
“The customs agents told us their supervisors told them to continue to let them go north because they don’t want the Mexican citizens to get mad at them,” an agent said.
“Another customs guy, he said flat out, ‘There was an issue between the first-line supers and second-line,’” the agent said, referring to senior supervisors and junior supervisors. “Basically, second-line didn’t want to make the public angry. That’s pretty much your job at the port — to make people angry.”
CBP referred the Washington Examiner to its Federal Register notice, which defines essential travelers as including those “individuals traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the United States).” It describes “individuals traveling for tourism purposes (e.g., sightseeing, recreation, gambling, or attending cultural events)” as engaging in nonessential travel.
As of Saturday morning, port of entry officers were still sending through noncitizens entering for nonessential travel, the officials said.