GIARITELLI: Former Border Patrol Officials Say Biden Political Appointees 'Hated Border Patrol,' Silenced Them

“A significant portion of the individuals that came in under the Biden administration hated the Border Patrol.”

By Anna Giaritelli

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Texas Insider Report) — 
The recently retired second in command of the U.S. Border Patrol said the Biden administration intentionally blocked him and others from engaging with the public, enacting robust protocols to sabotage media requests as millions surged across the southern border.

In an interview with the Washington Examiner, recently retired Border Patrol Deputy Chief Matthew Hudak (right,) spoke out for the first time since his departure and accused White House appointees within the Department of Homeland Security of policing the police’s media presence.
“Dealing with this tidal wave of humanity that was hitting our border on a daily basis — very quickly, news stories, statements being put out condemning our agents, being critical of their efforts, spread like wildfire, and we had our hands tied behind our back and were unable to counter or respond to any of that with the actual facts,” Hudak said in the May interview.
Hudak is one of three current and former senior federal law enforcement officials at the top of the 20,000-employee organization who told the Washington Examiner that they believe they were purposely kept out of the public eye at the White House’s order.
“We aren’t allowed to speak to media without HQ approval. It is almost always denied,” said one of the senior officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“Office of Public Affairs at HQ – they have final say on all media engagements. Before that, the Sector Chiefs had that ability.”

Rodney Scott, the former Border Patrol chief, said in an interview that they were forced to stay out of sight when the border fell into crisis. More than 10 million people have been observed illegally entering the United States since Biden’s first day in office.
“The Trump administration came in, and they actually expanded and freed up communication significantly,” said Scott, who led the organization under the Trump and Biden administrations.

“It was a very, very decisive – like 180-degree turn with the Biden administration. … But all national media has been restricted. I wasn’t allowed to talk to anybody.”

The transition from former President Donald Trump to President Joe Biden was a “180-degree” shift, according to Scott (right.)

Trump Ushered in Border ‘Transparency’

In the months leading up to the 2020 election, Hudak was chief of one of the 22 sectors the Border Patrol divides the northern, southern, and coastal borders into. He was no stranger to local and national media and had done in-person interviews in his Texas region with CNN and Fox News.

Facilitating media was a “relatively straightforward, easy process and done very frequently,” said Hudak, a 26-year agent.

“There was a process of notification if we were going to do on-camera interviews with local media, regional, or national. But I don’t recall one of those being denied when I was the acting chief in Del Rio Sector or chief in two other sectors,” Hudak said. “It was pretty seamless and a great opportunity for us to answer questions that were out there.”

Scott was national chief of the Border Patrol under Trump in 2020 and for the first six months of the Biden administration in 2021.

Early in the Trump administration, Scott had met with Trump when he traveled to San Diego, California, to see the prototypes for border wall construction projects.
“He’s just like, ‘This is a government Border Patrol agent that — he has no reason to lie. He’s just telling me what works and what doesn’t work.’ And then said, ‘Go tell America,'” Scott said.

“That was repeated throughout the entire time that I was both a sector chief, and the chief of the Border Patrol. …

"The direction I got from the Trump administration was, ‘America needs to know what’s going on,'” Scott said.

With support from Trump’s political appointees at the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol had each of its 22 regions create social media accounts to post regularly about the work of agents in each zone, including arrests of gang members, drug smugglers, and other criminals.
“We built structures, and we built processes to tell America,” said Scott. (At right, U.S. Border Patrol Chief Scott speaks with then-President Donald Trump as he tours the Arizona Border Wall on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020, in San Luis, AZ.)

“There weren’t a lot of talking points that came down. It wasn’t like a scripted message, per se. It was just, ‘Make sure that you’re communicating.'”

CBP paid to have senior leadership employees take social media and media engagement courses to learn how to message and post content, Scott said.

Scott also pointed to monthly in-person border briefing press conferences in Washington,DC, in which he and the CBP commissioner announced monthly arrest numbers and fielded questions.

“No one was worried about anybody giving out information that, you know, made the administration look bad because that wasn’t the point. It was about facts and transparency and truth,” Scott said.

The Biden Transition

In one of the most aggressive policy pivots between presidential administrations, Biden took office on Jan. 20, 2021, and signed executive orders undoing numerous immigration policies Trump had put into place, following through on a campaign promise to expand pathways for migrants to seek asylum.

Each president appoints executive office employees in departments and agencies. They advise career employees like Hudak and Scott of the White House’s wishes.
Biden’s political appointees at the DHS immediately clashed with career officials, Scott said.
“The new chief of staff for CBP walked into the building. Her name was Lise Clavel — kind of laid down the law,” Scott said.
“One of the first things that they rolled out was that she will be managing all public relations, all media, and that we needed to go through her for approvals.”

Biden’s political appointees to the DHS and CBP introduced guidelines on when, where, and with whom executives at Border Patrol were allowed to speak.

They were not put out in written form, according to Hudak (right.)

Under Biden, requests from media to speak with Border Patrol agents like Hudak and Scott would be sent from the press office to be decided by Biden’s political appointees.

“The requests were very rarely ever denied, but it would be up until a short time before the interview, ‘No, we’re still waiting for approval,'” Hudak said.

“Those things would never happen at that point. That would be a wave-off usually by the media side of, ‘We can’t hold an interview slot indefinitely.'”

Hudak was promoted in December 2021 from a chief in the field to second in command at the national headquarters. He said interviews with media while in the field and at headquarters stopped once Biden took office.
“That was even a little bit more frustrating. The sentiment was: ‘There’s no gag order. We’re not preventing anybody from talking, but we have to approve every request,'” Hudak said.

“Not being allowed is, frankly, the same as being denied.”

The third official said the crackdown turned the Biden administration into the “least transparent administration we have ever experienced.”

Scott claimed that the clampdown on Border Patrol was intentional – and based on political appointees’ vendetta for the organization.

“Based on my face-to-face conversations with these people for about seven months — actually longer than that because several of them participated in the transition … a significant portion of the individuals that came in under the Biden administration hated the Border Patrol,” Scott said.

“[DHS Assistant Secretary for Border and Immigration Policy Blas Nuñez-Neto] told me to my face that ‘we do not like the Border Patrol. We do not trust the Border Patrol.'”

The Biden White House is looking to bring Nuñez-Neto (right,) over from the DHS ahead of the election, according to a senior official. Hudak declined to comment about his experience working with Nuñez-Neto.
“I remember my deputy chief coming back … from a meeting with Lise Clavel about messaging, about communication, just completely frustrated because we had a proposed press release. And again, it’s just very factual,” Scott recounted.

“They were pushing back on that – ‘Why do you, why do you have to talk about criminals crossing the border? Why do you have to talk about the gang members?’ – and we’re like, ‘We’re just reporting what is going on, the totality of what’s going on.'”

Scott said Biden officials communicated to career law enforcement officials that they did “not want” illegal migrants “portrayed as terrorists.”

The number of suspected and known terrorists arrested at the border has gone from a handful per year before Biden, to more than 160 last year, per CBP data.
“No one was trying to portray anything. CBP was trying to report what they did with taxpayers’ money,” Scott said.

“Anything that had to do with actual, like criminals crossing the border, threats, anything that we were just normally pushing out, we weren’t getting approval.”

Clavel, Scott said, would go between the White House and CBP for approval on border-related communications.

“They don’t like our messaging. They don’t want to talk about border threats,” Scott said.

A DHS spokesperson said the assertions were “categorically false.”

“A/S Nuñez-Neto has the highest respect and admiration for the U.S. Border Patrol and their dedication to the security of our borders and our country, and has consistently demonstrated that respect over the past two decades of his work on these challenging issues,” the DHS spokesperson said. “Ms. Clavel is also a longtime public servant and holds the deepest respect for the U.S. Border Patrol, and consistently advocated for them during her time as a senior leader in the Administration.”

Fielding a Crisis

Border Patrol’s inability to speak with national media occurred amid extraordinary circumstances. Border Patrol agents on the southern border saw an increase in the number of migrants caught illegally entering the country shortly after Biden took office in January 2021.

In a matter of weeks, the number of people intercepted by agents skyrocketed – from 70,000 per month to topping 200,000.
“The next thing we knew, we’re catching, you know, 11,000 a day. Unheard of, right? And this just beat the agents down, and they don’t see anybody giving them top cover at all. They don’t see anybody advocating for them,” Scott said.

Scott was forced out in mid-2021 after he penned a letter to superiors coming out against the Biden administration’s internal order for agents not to call migrants arrested at the border “illegal aliens,” a term used in federal statute that Congress wrote into law decades ago.

Scott’s successor, Chief Raul Ortiz, was kept out of the spotlight and only appeared before national media in the presence of Biden officials, who often occupied the podium.
“They never let him to just go on his own. It’s always a political appointee standing right beside him – or they would usually have Secretary Mayorkas or somebody else talking and then just have Raul standing behind him for credibility,” Scott said.

“He was never allowed to speak either – not freely.”

Ortiz declined to comment.

A CBP spokesperson told the Washington Examiner that the agency “is committed to transparency with stakeholders and the public that we serve and view public communication as a key part of our national security and public safety missions.”

“These assertions are false, as evidenced by CBP senior career leaders’ frequent media engagements and daily social media posts,” the CBP spokesperson said.

The White House, Nuñez-Neto, and Clavel did not respond to requests for comment.
Anna Giaritelli joined the Washington Examiner in 2015 and focuses on Homeland Security, Immigration, and Border Issues. Currently based in Austin, Texas, she has traveled to the border on more than 50 occasions since 2018, covering human smuggling, the evolution of the war on drugs, domestic terrorism, and migration trends. Follow Anna on Twitter @Anna_Giaritelli.