Border patrol tells landowners to expect ‘possible armed civilians’ as caravan traverses Mexico

As the migrant caravan makes its way through Mexico and toward the US, the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector said that if any “media and/or organizations” request access to private property along the border, they want Rio Grande Valley landowners to let them know.

In an email sent to landowners Wednesday morning, CBP Landowner Liaison Jaime Sanchez said Border Patrol expects “media outlets and possible armed civilians” to seek access to their properties.

“In previous instances,” Sanchez said, “groups have not asked for permission and have taken it upon themselves to access your property.” In response, Sanchez said CBP would “greatly appreciate” if landowners could provide the names of those seeking “authorization to set up camp or media equipment.”

The email has alarmed border landowners. It is unclear what CBP is attempting to prevent or achieve. If CBP wants to prevent unauthorized entry onto private property, it is not clear how a list of the groups that have requested permission to enter would have any effect on that or even whether such a task would fall under their jurisdiction. On the other hand, if the goal is knowing which outlets and groups have been granted permission by landowners to access private properties along the border, the question remains— Why?

In a written statement, CBP said the intent was “to provide the landowners within that specific area of responsibility a point of contact in case they encounter media or any unauthorized individuals on their respective properties.” According to CBP, “this was merely a proactive effort to inform stakeholders with property along the immediate border.”

Marianna Trevino Wright, director of the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, was one of the landowners who received this communication. Her view is that CBP is not genuine about their motives. She said it is not about protecting landowners, as Sanchez’s email would appear to imply. Instead, she believes it is about fanning the flames of fear and an attempt to control who reports on issues regarding the migrant caravan.

“That’s not really why they sent out this communication,” Trevino Wright said. “This communication is a scare tactic.” The director said she will not be abiding by CBP’s request.

As of Thursday morning, the caravan was still in Mapastepec, Mexico, more than 1,000 miles away from the nearest US border town. Additionally, Trevino Wright said that in her more than six years as director of the National Butterfly Center, she has never had issues with any media or groups on her property without her permission— except for government contractors in July 2017 who entered her property without permission to clear the area for President Trump’s border wall.

“The only armed militia on our property is [border patrol],” she said. “They’re there every day.”

As CBP seeks to enlist landowners in efforts to monitor or surveil which media outlets are reporting along the border, they are also taking reporters from right-wing outlets, like Breitbart and Fox News, on rides’ along the border. Some reporters, such as Griff Jenkins from Fox News, apparently are even “hiding in the bushes [of the Rio Grande Valley border]” in an attempt to ambush or “witness” border crossings, as reported by The Guardian.

On Thursday, The New York Times reported that President Trump vowed to send 800 Army Troops to the border.

Juanita Valdez-Cox, director of La Union del Pueblo Entero, condemned Trump’s promise.

“President’s Trump’s vow to send military troops to the border will only make matters worse for border residents,” she said in a written statement. “His attempt to militarize the border goes against the family values of unity and respect for all people and puts the rights and lives of border residents and migrants in danger.”

The caravan is composed of about 7,000 people, including families with young children, many who plan to seek asylum in the US, according to various reports. The caravan began as what has been described as a “mass exodus” on Oct. 16 with only about 1,000 people.

Although President Trump has made various unsubstantiated claims portraying caravan participants as dangerous and a threat to the US, many of the interviewed caravan members have repeatedly cited the desire to flee extreme violence and persecution, as well as poverty, as the reasons they are leaving their homeland behind.