90 Miles From Tyranny : Ballooning number of ‘gotaways’ poses public safety, national security risk

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Friday, July 23, 2021

Ballooning number of ‘gotaways’ poses public safety, national security risk

At least 270,000 migrants have sneaked into the U.S. and burrowed into communities across the country so far this fiscal year, according to the latest Border Patrol data.

Agents know them as “gotaways” who represent an acute national security risk, according to the head of the National Sheriffs’ Association’s border security committee.

Unlike the migrant children who often surrender to border authorities and the migrants who are caught and screened before release, gotaways sneak through the country’s defenses without any look into their criminal histories.

The Border Patrol is missing about 1,100 of them a day, said Sheriff Mark Dannels of Cochise County, Arizona, who got his numbers directly from the agency.

“These are people that are coming dressed head to toe in camouflage, being smuggled by the cartels,” Sheriff Dannels said. “That is a public safety and national security risk to this country.”

He said his region of southeastern Arizona has borne the brunt of the gotaway traffic, with 90,000 so far this fiscal year.

That is surprising because Texas is getting more migrants overall.

Customs and Border Protection, the Homeland Security agency that guards the nation’s boundaries, didn’t explain why Arizona is experiencing the worst of the crisis.

But agents in the Border Patrol’s Tucson sector have been pulled off the line and deployed on missions to process and care for migrant parents and children. These migrants generally want to be caught so they can take advantage of more relaxed enforcement.

Sheriff Dannels said 300 agents have been moved out of one Border Patrol station and three highway checkpoints have been shut down for months, creating an easier path to get deep into the country.

The Department of Homeland Security has a sense of who is crossing, thanks to a network of cameras and sensors stretched along the southern boundary with Mexico. Subtract how many people are caught, and the difference is the number of known gotaways.

Sheriff Dannels runs his own network of cameras in Cochise and surrounding areas. He said the apprehension rate there is running at only about 36%. The rest are gotaways.

The Texas Department of Public Safety also runs a network of cameras under a program known as Operation Drawbridge. Its numbers suggest the gotaways rate is steadily increasing.

From Jan. 1 to April 7, the department recorded 21,904 gotaways, or nearly 230 a day. From April 8 to July 15, it tallied....

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