Blakeslee at the Border: A Local Perspective of a National Issue
By: Kayla Blakeslee, Host of Fort Wayne’s Morning News
Blakeslee at the Border Part 1: Media Bias
I was in with the sharks. The mainstream media press pool. If I had to guess there were at least 50 mainstream media outlets circling in Texas for the two-day time period I was in the Lone Star State covering the Republican Study Committee’s trip to the southern border as well as former President Donald Trump’s visit to the southern border. At one moment I looked around at my surroundings and thought, “What am I doing here?!” I quickly snapped myself back to reality and told myself, “You are here to get the real story.”
What was real was the biased media. If there was ever a shred of doubt in your mind about that, I am here to tell you, the mainstream media is filled with their own agendas to drive their own political propaganda. While standing in Pharr, Texas awaiting Donald Trump’s arrival at the southern border two print reporters were sitting next to me talking about what “scoop” they were sent to get. One said she was sent by her boss to “hold Trump accountable for the big lie.” The other said she was there to ask Texas Governor Gregg Abbott if he was aware that his state’s down payment on the border wall was a “big waste of money?” In fact, right after Trump spoke, Jim Acosta from CNN shouted at Donald, “When will you apologize for January 6?!”
And here, I was going to ask Trump how he planned to bring both parties together and curate bi-partisan legislation to put a stop to the cross-border crime. Silly me.
None of us had the opportunity to ask the former President any questions by the way and yet, here were the headlines from the mainstream media:
Trump seeks spotlight at U.S.-Mexico border with attacks on Biden policies – Reuters
Trump visits the South Texas border amid a shift in the region toward Republicans –CNN
Trump visits the border and falsely claims he was months from completing a wall – The New York Times
This would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Same goes for local media.
I was a member of the local media from northwestern Indiana, traveling to the southern border alongside 23 members of the Republican Study Committee. Only five media outlets had this exclusive access. Five. The Hill, CNN, Politico, the Washington Post and my station, WOWO. And wouldn’t you know it, when I came back from the southern border, not a single local media outlet gave me a call to share my experience. Why do you think that is?
I also came back to headlines accusing our district’s Congressman and Chairman of the RSC, Jim Banks, of going there for a power grab. He was also being accused by our local media of traveling to the southern border for a photo op. You don’t sludge around in the mud, surrounded by knee-high fescue in the pitch-dark, while being on high alert for poisonous snakes and tarantulas the size of dessert plates just to say “cheese.” If he wanted to do that, he could have done what our Vice President did and travel to El Paso.
As much as I took in my surroundings of the border, I also took in what I witnessed on the faces of our elected leaders. Congressman Banks was devastated. In fact, he looked exhausted. He’s exhausted by the false narratives. He’s exhausted by the cross-border crimes. He’s exhausted watching people risk their lives for a shot at a better one and most importantly he’s exhausted from screaming-out solutions while others are denying there is even a problem. This was his third time visiting the southern border and the only reason the media cared was because Trump was also going to be there.
I’m exhausted by it and I was only there for two days.
Blakeslee at the Border Part 2: Migrant Intentions
While approaching the southern border for the first time along the Rio Grande Valley, outside La Joya Texas, I felt sick to my stomach. It was about 11:30PM and there we were eyes-peeled with flashlights, looking around, heads bobbing, attempting to find migrants pushing through the darkness. It was as if I was at the circus pushing through the crowd to see the latest attraction. Albeit I didn’t have to do much pushing. In the 2.5 hours I was there, I put my own eyes on at least 100 migrants. Border Patrol Agents noted that in our location they primarily see “family units.” They also told us the areas where a lot of the young boys and single men cross are so dangerous that our guides were not allowed to take us there because one of two things would happen: we would be kidnapped or murdered.
So where I was, I saw what appeared to be family units, but often that isn’t the case according to Border Patrol Agents. Yes women, kiddos and occasionally a few men appear to be traveling together, but in most cases, they are not families. In most cases they are not even related. They are individual people, from different countries, grouped together by drug cartels. That doesn’t mean families don’t cross together with good intentions, because they do, but their intentions do not matter. Their intentions become moot because cartels, gangs and smugglers prey upon every migrant attempting to cross the border. Forcing them to smuggle drugs, launder money and traffic sex as entry fees to get into the United States. These gangs and drug cartels are turning “good intentions” into a multi-billion-dollar business.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection they seized enough fentanyl in 2019 to kill every American 2.5 times. In 2020 they seized enough fentanyl to kill every American three times and so far in 2021, they have already seized enough fentanyl to kill every American four times. Let that sink in.
When a ship is sinking due to a leak you don’t investigate the origins of the leak first; you find the leak and stop it. Just like when a patient is bleeding out. You must stop the bleeding first before investigating what caused the wound.
We must stop this bleeding first, before we investigate why these migrants are arriving in the U.S. at record numbers, or else we will bleed out.
Blakeslee at the Border Part 3: The Journey
Originally, I was not going to write about the border wall because it is such a partisan issue, but after my trip to the southern border I came back thinking the number one issue facing our country right now is the issue of securing our borders and thus I have to write about it.
In 1849 at the end of the Mexican-American War the preverbal line in the sand was drawn between the US and Mexico. In fact, the Mexican-United States Boundary Commission drew that line. A few years later in 1855 negations in terms of a physical border started happening. First a fence was put in place to keep diseased cattle in Mexico from entering the US and then fast forward to 1917 and in order to cross the U.S.-Mexico Border, people had to pay $8 per person and pass a literacy test. In 1924 the Border Patrol was created. From there I will spare you what happened over the next 90 some years and speed things up to 2006 when the Secure the Fence Act went into law and called for the construction of hundreds of miles of additional fencing along the border. By 2015 just over 650 miles of border fencing or wall were completed from California to Texas. As of 2021 there’s been between 700 and over a 1,000 miles of border wall completed.
Quite the journey from 1849 to 2021. And what has this journey really led us to? Division. Currently it’s Trump’s America vs. Biden’s America. This photo says it all.
At this moment I also feel the need to point out the wall was not Donald Trump’s idea. He just supported it. As did former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton so on and so forth. And while standing along the Rio Grande Valley, outside Pharr, Texas looking at the partially constructed border wall, Trump’s America vs Biden’s America, I couldn’t help but think how odd it is. Odd that every other nation seems to be able to secure their borders but not America.
Turkey secures its borders. China, North Korea, Egypt, they all secure their borders. Border walls exist in Africa, Asia and even some in Europe, but instead of our country acknowledging this we have decided to bicker about what’s humanitarian. We argue over price tags, the military and environmental issues.
Yes all of these things are important and conversations need to be had, but I can’t help but find it ironic that while we are bickering over a wall, many countries all over the globe have come to rely on border barriers. While no one was looking, border barriers have become the international norm.
So as I stood there, in the Texas heat alongside the border wall I thought to myself, “Why is this so complicated?” Doesn’t every country, including America, have the right to secure its land, in the same way that every homeowner has the right to lock their doors? Not because you hate the people on the outside, but because you love the people on the inside.
As my day along the wall in Pharr, Texas started to come to an end I kept wrestling with the same question over and over and the answer is scary, “Can a nation really be sovereign if it can’t control who or what comes in and out as well as where and when?” I would argue no.
Which then takes me to my next nagging question that I don’t have an answer to, “Is it possible to join Trump’s America with Biden’s America and forge a path forward to bridge the gap? Or will we forever be the divided states of America?”
Blakeslee at the Border Part 4: The Reckoning
We have all heard the stat by now, the number of undocumented migrants reaching the US-Mexico border has hit the highest level in more than 20 years. Folks are pouring in from Honduras, Ecuador, Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, Guatemala and even some from African nations. Not all of these migrants are bad, not all of them are good.
However, thanks to President Biden taking a sledge-hammer to former President Trump’s immigration polices our checks and balances system of weeding out the good from the bad is being dismembered. For example the Biden administration relaunched “Catch and Release.” This means newly-apprehended migrants are simply “released” into the US handicapping meaningful border security measures that deter illegal immigration. In fact, after being to the southern border myself and learning how the drug cartels and gangs are profiting off this, I would go as far as saying Biden’s polices are eliminating our border security measures at a time when the US deals with thousands of illegal border crossings every day.
On top of that, Biden already made families and unaccompanied minors ineligible for deportation under Title 42 and rumor has it, Biden will revoke Title 42 completely by the end of the July, opening the border to everyone. The good and the bad.
It would seem most migrants are not ill-intentioned and have unfortunately just been forced to accept the realities of abuse and exploitation that are demanded by the cartels in exchange for safe passage to the US. Migrants succumb to the reality they will be treated like Amazon packages while being delivered by gangs and cartels to the US. Quite frankly, an Amazon package is treated far better. This is the harsh reality.
So when it comes to securing our border and curating bi-partisan legislation to bring those efforts to fruition, Washington must go back to the drawing board. Stiff-arming all migrants or saying, “Come one, come all,” are not bi-partisan solutions.
Before a debate recently Florida Congressman Daniel Webster said something that was truly profound.
Mr. President, when the mariner has been tossed about for many days in thick weather on an unknown sea, he naturally avails himself of the first pause in the storm, the earliest glance of the sun to take his latitude and ascertain where he is in relation to his desired course. Let us imitate this prudence and before we float on the waves of this debate refer to the point from which we departed, that we may at least be able to conjecture where we now are.”
For 100 years we have been trying to navigate these waters and we are no better off now than we were decades ago.
Think about it… where we now are.
I don’t know where you are, but I feel like a buoy lost at sea, aimlessly bobbing around waiting. Waiting for each party to clarify their views on precisely how our government will handle the record-breaking number of migrants coming to the US. Because if we don’t handle it this genie is going to be let out of the bottle. I would argue he is already seeping out and once he is out, there is no way of getting him back in.
I for one am tired of aimlessly waiting.
It starts with us. We the people. It’s easy to lash out at our politicians and blame Washington, but if there is one thing my trip to the southern boarder has taught me, it’s that it starts with us.
It’s time we the people start restoring reason amongst ourselves and become the people who solve the problem – not the people who enable it. It’s time we the people, not the party, chart the course of our history because if we don’t, a day of reckoning is coming.
*To view more photos captured be J3Designs Photography click here.