Gagged: Biden admin warns Border Patrol not to share certain info about border surge with media

Yesterday Byron York called the White House’s management of optics at the border the “Biden blackout,” noting specifically the difficulty lawyers and reporters have had gaining access to the detention facility in Donna, Texas. A party that bristled at the thought of “kids in cages” under Trump is suddenly keen to deny Americans a chance to see for themselves the sort of conditions migrant children are living in after Biden foolishly lifted the ban on admitting unaccompanied minors.

Per NBC, it turns out the Biden blackout is more extensive than we knew. Border Patrol officials tell NBC they’re under the equivalent of a “gag order,” one delivered without a paper trail presumably so as to give the White House plausible deniability.

“Man, if the Trump administration did this, we would be hearing top-of-the-lungs screaming about a police state in which the administration abuses innocent people and hides it all, suppressing the truth with ruthless zeal,” Jim Geraghty writes today at NRO. So we would.

Border Patrol officials have been told to deny all media requests for “ride-alongs” with agents along the southern land border; local press officers are instructed to send all information queries, even from local media, to the press office in Washington for approval; and those responsible for cultivating data about the number of migrants in custody have been reminded not to share the information with anyone to prevent leaks, the officials said…

The new restrictions have been passed down verbally, not through an official memo, the officials said. The unofficial policy has led some agents at the border to release videos that show mass arrests and surges of migrants without permission from Washington, two officials said…

Some of the restrictions, particularly for in-person tours, are due to Covid-19 precautions, said one of the current officials. But, as the current official said, while the Trump administration allowed some border ride-alongs for journalists during the pandemic, there has been “not a single one since January 20,” the day President Joe Biden was inaugurated.

Some officials told NBC that the current lid resembles the standards put in place by Obama in 2014. Under Trump, different regions of the CBP had more autonomy on which details they chose to share. Under Obama and now Biden, information was/is more centralized and less forthcoming. You could chalk that up to ideological differences if you like — authority to manage problems is more diffuse under Republicans and more concentrated under Democrats — but the simpler explanation is that immigration surges are a bigger political liability for liberal administrations than conservative ones. A border crisis under Trump could be used by the White House to show that the president was right all along in wanting to beef up enforcement. A border crisis under Obama or Biden can only demonstrate the folly of progressive open-borders policies that attract migrants.

George Stephanopoulos nudged Biden about that in their new interview, in fact. Watch Biden scoff at the idea that kids are being sent north due to perceptions abroad that he’s a “nice guy.” They’re saying that, though, Stephanopoulos replies, referencing the migrants themselves:

It’s not just kids and traffickers who recognize that Biden’s “nice guy” open-borders approach is incentivizing migration:

Cuellar, like many others, said Biden’s rhetoric was heavily responsible for the influx of migrants. Last week, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the new U.S. president had stirred hopes for many Central Americans seeking to immigrate or reunite with loved ones already here.

“They see him as the migrant president,” López Obrador told reporters.

“When you deliver mixed messages, the migrants and smugglers hear what they want to hear,” said Alan Bersin, who served as CBP commissioner during President Barack Obama’s first term. “They’re saying the border isn’t open — but in fact, for unaccompanied children and families with children under 6, the border is open. You simply can’t thread the needle in messaging.”

The border is open, at least to certain immigrants, and the word has gotten out. That’s why there’s a crisis. Everything else is noise. The question is why Team Joe didn’t anticipate the reaction once they ended pandemic restrictions on admitting children. “Biden officials were warned for months that sudden moves along the border would be risky, given that Central American economic misery has deepened with the pandemic,” WaPo notes. “However, the new administration did not appear to prepare for the consequences of looser enforcement and is now racing to add shelter space, staff and resources to keep pace.”

And now they’re trying to hide the consequences of their lack of preparation from the public:

“Why is it that photographers can get telephoto pictures of presidents golfing from half a mile away, but no one seems to have current photos of any of the 1000s of unaccompanied children in @CBP custody?” Bier asked in another tweet, rhetorically.

I’ll leave you with this short interview with a mayor in Arizona from yesterday illustrating another facet of the “Biden blackout.” The Border Patrol is dropping off admitted migrants in his town with no information about how many more are coming and how many might have COVID. Exit quotation: “We are completely in the dark.”