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N4T Investigators: Border Build Update

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TUCSON (KVOA) - An uptick in illegal migrant crossings has been taking place across our Southern Border. And Arizona is no different.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) said there was a nearly 30% increase in one month. No one knows this better than people living along the border wall.

“We all grew up together,” John Ladd, a border rancher said. "We’ve got close family connections on both sides of the border."

For four generations, Ladd’s family’s been living along the border before there was a wall. He said he has seen it all, except for this; an influx in illegal immigration during a worldwide pandemic.   

In June, we talked to Ladd about wall construction, which is now paused. 

N4T Investigators: Border Build

Ladd said from what he’s seen, illegal crossings on his land have gone up 100% since then. 

“It’s pretty much round-the-clock, every day now,” Ladd said. 

He said he doesn’t think the federal government is testing them for COVID-19.   

“We’re being abandoned...” Ladd said. 

“They just had no concept of what was going on at the border and they frankly don’t care,” Gary Thrasher, a border resident said. 

A veterinarian, Thrasher cares for animals near the border. He knows a lot of ranchers. Regardless of their stance on immigration, he said people want to know, how is the government protecting Americans if our southern border is insecure during a pandemic?  

News 4 Investigators asked this question to the Department of Homeland Security.

However, they never responded to our multiple attempts to find out how it's slowing the spread of the virus at the border.  

CBP said, “The border is not open, and the vast majority of people are being returned..."  In Feburary, nationally, agents caught more than 100-thousand people crossing illegally.   

About 72,000 were returned, meaning about 28,000 likely untested people came into the U.S. in one month.  

We brought those concerns to the White House, asking how can the government test illegal immigrants for COVID-19, if is testing them at all, if they are crossing illegally without the government's knowledge?

In a statement, a White House spokesperson replied, “This Administration has on countless occasions sent a message loud and clear to those attempting to cross the southern border: now is not the time to come. The vast majority of migrants attempting to enter the United States unlawfully right now will be turned away. We are working through comprehensive reform to our nation’s immigration system, with a specific focus on remedying the ineffective and immoral policies of the previous Administration and that will take time.” 

Which did not answer our question.

“There was no planning,” Thrasher said. “No foresight at all about what their decisions on immigration would do.”  

He said the immigration spike is fueled by political promises compounded with gaps in the wall from paused construction.  

“As soon as Biden talked about amnesty for the 11-million people here...” Ladd said. “...that created the rush to the border." 

Once they get here, who's protecting them?   

Douglas Nicholls, mayor of Yuma said Border Patrol’s dropped off hundreds of migrants already.  

“I’m concerned that those who are released have the ability to traverse to wherever they’re going...” Nicholls said. “Otherwise, they end up joining our homeless population.”   

The Mayor of Nogales told us Border Patrol hasn't dropped anyone off yet but is expecting to in the future. 

We confirmed in Tucson, migrants have been dropped off by the busload at temporary housing spots. 

With shelter capacities cut, food donations discouraged and volunteering at a low thanks to the pandemic some have said it brings into question the morality of promising people life in America that our government may not be able to support or safely plan during a pandemic. 

“If I took one of my grandkids out to a strange place and just dumped them and said find your own way, I don’t have anything for you, don’t you think that’d be inhumane?” Thrasher said. “That's what our government is doing to these people.” 

According to Border Patrol people coming through our Ports of Entry are screened for COVID-19. However, Troy Miller, a CBP senior official said in a news release, “Those who attempt to cross the border without going through ports of entry should understand that they are putting themselves and their families in danger, especially during the pandemic. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the border is not open, and the vast majority of people are being returned under Title 42. Do not believe smugglers or others claiming otherwise.”  

Have an issue you’d like for us to investigate?  Email investigators@kvoa.Com or call our tip line at 520-955-4444.   

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Alexis Berdine

Alexis Berdine is an Investigative Multi-Media Journalist at KVOA.

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