Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 10, 2006

Is CBP informing Mexico about the Minutemen?

Filed under: Border Security — by Christian Beckner on May 10, 2006

The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, California) published a story yesterday that has touched off a firestorm of controversy, alleging that the Border Patrol has been tipping off Mexican authorities about the presence of the Minutemen along the border on a regular basis:

According to three documents on the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Web site, the U.S. Border Patrol is to notify the Mexican government as to the location of Minutemen and other civilian border patrol groups when they participate in apprehending illegal immigrants — and if and when violence is used against border crossers.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman confirmed the notification process, describing it as a standard procedure meant to reassure the Mexican government that migrants’ rights are being observed.

“It’s not a secret where the Minuteman volunteers are going to be,” Mario Martinez said Monday.

The article also alleges that the Border Patrol is deliberately downplaying the contributions of the Minutemen to apprehensions, noting:

Border Patrol agents interviewed by the Daily Bulletin said they have been asked to report to sector headquarters the location of all civilian volunteer groups, but to not file the groups’ names in reports if they spot illegal immigrants.

“Last year an internal memo notified all agents not to give credit to Minuteman volunteers or others who call in sightings of illegal aliens,” said one agent, who spoke on the condition he not be identified. “We were told to list it as a citizen call and leave it at that. Many times, we were told not to go out to Minuteman calls.”

Customs and Border Protection responded to the story with a vehement denial later on Tuesday:

Today’s report by the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, “U.S. tipping Mexico to Minuteman patrols,” is inaccurate. Border Patrol does not report activity by civilian, non-law enforcement groups to the Government of Mexico. During a detention of a legal or illegal immigrant that produces an allegation of improper treatment, Border Patrol reports the allegation and allows the appropriate consulate to interview the individual in custody.

The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin later stood by its story in response to CBP’s denials, and added details in a new story today. The National Review parses this quarrel in this story.

I don’t know where the truth lies here, but I can understand why people are upset if this reporting did happen. There’s no good reason why the Border Patrol should be reporting on the activities of law-abiding American citizens (who aren’t interfering with their activities) to a foreign government. And the Border Patrol should accurately track the role that the Minutemen have played in apprehending people – the national debate on border security will suffer if we’re working off an inaccurate baseline assessment of the effectiveness of various measures.

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