(Bloomberg) -- New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents made “absolutely ridiculous” accusations when they said he unlawfully entered the U.S. from Mexico last month while trying to inspect a Texas detention facility.
De Blasio said he approached the tent city June 21 with a bipartisan group of about 20 mayors. After they were denied entry, de Blasio separately passed through a border crossing to the Mexican side to gain a better view of children separated from their parents after the families entered illegally. A letter from the agency accused de Blasio of illegally crossing back to the U.S. side before returning to Mexico.
The mayor denied that he skirted immigration procedures and said he crossed the border only through the formal checkpoint.
“Like so many people in this city and this country, I was repulsed by a policy of family separation, taking children away from their parents,” de Blasio said Wednesday at a news conference. “We were told where the border line was and we respected it. We came back the exact same way, both times showed passports, went through with the approval of the agents at the entry point.”
The mayor, an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, said the border patrol’s accusation was an attempt to “distract from an inhumane policy. You can tell when the federal government is pursuing a policy that is hurting people they don’t want that to be the focus of attention.”
More than 2,300 families have been separated as a result of the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy that calls for filing criminal charges against adults crossing illegally.
De Blasio’s controversy, first reported by the Associated Press, arose from a letter that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection wrote to the New York Police Department, alleging that a patrol officer saw the group on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande River flood plain south of Tornillo, Texas, taking photos of the facility.
The letter said the agent inquired whether the group had sought authorization, and was told no. The border agent told them they’d crossed back into the U.S. from Mexico illegally and ordered them to stay while he consulted with a supervisor. But the group drove back to Mexico, according to the letter.
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