An official with U.S. Border Patrol sent out a tweet on Tuesday, claiming the agency had arrested ten “illegal aliens” in El Centro, California after some were allegedly caught with fake Social Security numbers. Strangely, the Border Patrol official said the suspects had claimed to be firefighters who were certified in Oregon. Is Border Patrol really arresting firefighters as uncontrolled wildfires rage across an estimated 18,600 hectares in California? It sure looks like it.
“#IDENTITYTHEFT: 10 illegal aliens arrested by #USBP El Centro claiming to be wild-land firefighters certified by Oregon state,” Chief Patrol Agent Gregory K. Bovino tweeted. “Further inquiry revealed 9 of the 10 suspects had illegally obtained the SS numbers of USCs, including that of a child & 2 deceased persons. #caught”
Gizmodo contacted U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and asked about the arrests. CBP wouldn’t tell us whether the people arrested were indeed firefighters, and it’s not clear where they might be now. CBP and its sister agency ICE operate an extensive system of concentration camps across the U.S. which houses tens of thousands of people, many of whom committed no crime aside from being undocumented.
“This incident happened last week in El Centro Sector. These individuals were arrested at the I-86 Immigration Checkpoint after agents determined they were illegally present in the United States,” Jaime Ruiz, branch chief with the CBP’s Office of Public Affairs, told Gizmodo via email on Wednesday.
“Unfortunately no additional information is available at this point,” the email continued.
Gizmodo sent a follow-up email asking whether CBP had ever arrested undocumented firefighters in the past, but we received no reply. It’s also unclear whether the photo that accompanies Bovino’s tweet has anything to do with this particular traffic stop. However, there’s other evidence that may have been revealed accidentally when Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott retweeted news of the rest with almost identical information on Tuesday.
“El Centro Sector agents arrested 10 illegal aliens within a crew of wild-land #firefighters,” Scott tweeted, with emphasis added by Gizmodo.
The language Scott uses in the tweet, “within a crew of wild-land firefighters,” suggests the undocumented people they picked up were part of a larger group of firefighters travelling along I-86, some of whom presumably weren’t arrested. Bovino said they “claimed to be” firefighters, but it’s reasonable to guess that anyone travelling with a huge group of firefighters during fire season is probably a firefighter.
Huge sections of California are currently experiencing a devastating wild fire crisis, with smoke making the air hazardous to breathe, even for otherwise health people. The Bay Area currently has the worst air quality of anywhere in the world, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Coupled with the covid-19 pandemic, which has sickened over 5.5 million Americans and killed at least 173,000, the situation is particularly dire and the U.S. needs as many firefighters as it can get.
It looks even worse when you consider that some of California’s most dependable firefighters — prisoners working for just $US1 ($1.40) per hour — are struggling with the covid-19 crisis and unable to work. Only 30 of the state’s 77 inmate fire crews are able to fight the ravages of nature right now, according to the Sacramento Bee. The other inmates are in covid lockdowns as the pandemic rips through America’s crowded and opaque prison system.
CBP operates dozens of highway checkpoints in the southwest, in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, and the agency is given broad authority to stop people for any reason within 161 km of the U.S. border. That authority has been challenged by civil rights groups in court, but Border Patrol agents have only grown more brazen under the administration of President Donald Trump. In fact, DHS officers are often slipping into illegal practices in the Trump era, as chronicled in the new Netflix documentary series “Immigration Nation.”
Even the head of U.S. Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, is currently in his position illegally, according to a new report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office. Ken Cuccinelli, the current Acting Deputy Secretary of DHS was also illegally appointed to his position, according to GAO.
DHS, and all of its sub-agencies, are currently operating like they’re above the law. And it sure looks like they are, when you consider that the people at the very top are operating illegally and have no intention of resigning. It’s going to get so much worse before it gets better. But Americans have only one choice if there’s any hope to reform this entirely broken system: Throw the bums out.