Border control agents canceled a “crowd control exercise” planned for Tuesday, November 6 after receiving backlash from civil rights groups and politicians, Buzzfeed News is reporting. The drill was planned to take place in El Paso, Texas, in between a primarily Hispanic neighborhood and the residents’ designated polling place a mere half-mile away. Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, whose hometown is El Paso, noted in a rally Monday night that the timing of the exercise was suspicious.
“No walls, no CBP exercises [are] going to keep us from honoring our laws, our commitments,” he announced. “Why this is happening now, why the president is stirring these issues up at this moment with 24 hours before we decide this election, I’ll leave that to you to conclude.”
Some people, however, said they did not believe that this “mobile field force demonstration” would suppress voters.
“I’m convinced the exercises aren’t getting in the way of Texans going to the polls,” Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos stated.
Other politicians definitely sided with O’Rourke on the issue and saw the demonstration as a blatant intimidation tactic. Democratic state Representative Mary González, who also serves as vice chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus in the Texas House, said the border patrol agents had an ulterior motive for their crowd control practice.
“This administration continues to use immigration policy for political purposes,” González said. “The made-for-media ‘crowd control’ drill, conducted on Election Day, is a cynical effort to suppress the Latino vote in a region seeing record turnout.”
The demonstration was quietly canceled Tuesday morning for no known reason, and The Department of Homeland Security and CBP officials have yet to respond to the media’s requests for comments. Many people are assuming the drill was canceled due to the negative response the news of the practice was getting. However, it has been reported by the media and El Paso residents alike that heavy law enforcement is still surrounding the area where the demonstration was to take place.
President Donald Trump has deployed 5,200 active-duty troops to the U.S.–Mexico border due to a heavily publicized caravan of Central American migrants currently traveling through Mexico. The caravan is still reportedly hundreds of miles away, but frequent exercises and demonstrations are still being conducted at the Paso del Norte bridge in preparation for its arrival. The agency has referred to their preparation as “operational readiness for the potential impact of the caravan.”