The Biden administration is limiting the information U.S. Border Patrol can share with media outlets during a surge of illegal immigration at the southern border, NBC News reported on Wednesday.
The restrictions have been passed down verbally and are viewed as an unofficial gag order, four current and two former U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials told NBC. Border Patrol agents have been instructed to deny all media ride-alongs, while even local media are instructed to direct questions to CBP’s Washington, D.C., office.
The hold has not entirely prevented footage of migrants from being leaked. Two officials said that a March video shared by Representative Henry Cuellar (R., Texas), which showed a line of migrant children and women waiting to be ferried across the Rio Grande, was provided by border agents. A Cuellar spokesperson said the representative was unable to disclose the source of the footage.
The unofficial gag order comes as media outlets have requested pictures from inside Border Patrol detention facilities, where over 4,200 migrant children are currently being held while waiting to be transferred to other shelters. So far, outlets have not received footage from inside detention centers.
“Across the federal government, certain employees are designated spokespeople for their respective agencies and public statements are vetted to ensure accuracy,” a Department of Homeland Security spokesman told NBC. “This standard and process has been followed at DHS since the Department’s inception and across bipartisan administrations.”
The news comes after DHS secretary Alejandro Mayorkas predicted that the surge of migrants at the border will break a 20-year record and continue to strain resources.
“The situation at the southwest border is difficult,” Mayorkas said in a statement. “We are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years. We are expelling most single adults and families. We are not expelling unaccompanied children.”
Over 100,000 migrants attempted to cross the border in February, according to USCBP, up 28 percent from January.