In 2018, faced with intense criticism, the El Paso Border Patrol sector scrapped a “crowd control exercise” that was planned next to the Chihuahuita neighborhood on Nov. 6 — Election Day.
The exercise was planned as the Trump administration, trying to maintain Republican control of Congress in midterm elections, warned of a migrant caravan “invasion” that threatened the border. The exercise was scrapped after I wrote stories the night before for the Washington Post and Texas Monthly that raised questions of possible intimidation of Hispanic voters.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency of the Border Patrol, put out a statement on Election Day that said the exercise was postponed “due to inaccurate reporting that caused unneeded confusion in border communities.” The agency refused to specify any inaccuracies.
However, emails I obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the exercise was never anything more than a scheme for media attention that drew heavy criticism within the Border Patrol and CBP.
“Essentially BP reached out to El Paso (CBP Office of Field Operations) and would like to run an exercise for media purposes at the (port of entry),” according to an email sent on Nov. 1, five days before the planned exercise, to Randy Howe, the CBP official then in charge of the nation’s ports of entry. The name of the person sending the email was redacted by the government.