RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – As the crisis on the border continues to reach a boiling point, an individual who used to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border gives an uncensored look behind the front lines as agents tackle the migrant problem on the border and battle in the court of public opinion.
Ronald Vitiello served more than three decades protecting our nation’s borders, but as the humanitarian crisis continue to grow, the longtime federal lawman tells us it will only get worse before it gets better. “We’ve released nearly 400,000 families and children into the United States just so far this year,” said Ronald Vitiello, the former Chief of the Border Patrol and retired ICE Acting Director.
“What would you have to say about the local immigration advocacy groups that are demanding for U.S. reps to act now to close detention centers across the country?,” asked Local 23’s Brenda Medina. “If we close detention centers, this problem gets immensely worse…the word will go back to the northern triangle and other places around the world and people will just come to the border and the government will be helpless to do anything about it,” Vitiello responded.
Within the past two weeks, lawmakers have been spending time touring detention center facilities from Florida to the Rio Grande Valley and most recently in El Paso.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also known as AOC, described the things she reportedly saw and heard during her visit.
“And they put them in a room with no running water and these women were being told by CBP officers to drink out of the toilet,” said New York Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “They were drinking water out of the toilet and that was them knowing a congressional visit was coming. That was CBP on their best behavior telling people to drink out of the toilet,” Ocasio-Cortez added.
“The commode is actually attached to a drinking fountain and so when someone says the water is over there, next to the restroom or in the restroom, or by the restroom, it’s a true statement. That’s where the water is, but it’s not the same thing as drinking out of a toilet,” said Vitiello.
The former ICE acting director takes issue with AOC’s description of migrant detention facilities.
“Based on the media reports that I saw, she didn’t talk to our agents. She didn’t talk to the people we were briefing. She went right into a facility and supposedly she struck up conversations with folks that were in detention, which is fine. That may even be her role as it relates to oversight. But, she’s obviously misinformed,” Said Vitiello.
Vitiello is also standing up and speaking out for agents who have been in the crosshairs of immigration advocates.
“No one does more in the government than the Border Patrol to help protect these people… and so when others try to denigrate them or when politicians want to wag their finger at the Border Patrol, what they need to realize is the system is overwhelmed…and what’s happening at the border now is at no fault of Border Patrol agents, they’ve got a job to do. They’re doing it the best they can under extraordinary conditions,” Said Vitiello.
Until the wave of migrants subsides Border Patrol agents will remain overwhelmed unless, “A change in the law would be the most definitive way. Help from Mexico would also help and then this migrant protection program, if they could scale it up, so people can wait in Mexico until their asylum claim that would also reduce traffic. If they have to wait in Mexico that sort of changes the calculus and people are going to make a different decision,” Vitiello added.
Regarding the recent reports about agents posting offensive content about migrants on Facebook, Vitiello says while those agents should be held accountable, he also stresses that should not reflect the 20,000 men and women in the Border Patrol because that’s not a fair characterization.