Make No Mistake: The Majority of Arizona’s Migrants This Year Were Family Units

Agent Roy Villareal in the first in a series of six videos produced by Border Patrol's Tucson Sector. The videos are being shared via Customs and Border Protection Arizona's Twitter.
Agent Roy Villareal in the first in a series of six videos produced by Border Patrol's Tucson Sector. The videos are being shared via Customs and Border Protection Arizona's Twitter.
A new series of videos released by Arizona immigration authorities on Wednesday attempts to showcase for the public the challenges and "hard work" that agents have done at the border in the 2019 fiscal year.

But because the videos focus solely on enforcement in the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector, viewers may be left with an incomplete picture of the year's migrant arrivals — particularly when it comes to the number of families who sought refuge in the state. The Border Patrol's Yuma Sector, where far more families arrived this year, is not planning to make its own videos.

Arizona's Customs and Border Protection Twitter page shared the videos, which feature Agent Roy Villareal, chief border agent for the Tucson Sector. The sector covers 70 percent of Arizona's 378-mile southern border, while the Yuma Sector covers the rest — from the international line at the Yuma County line to parts of eastern California.

“Here in Tucson we see two populations: Family units surrendering to agents and individuals avoiding our agents at all cost,” Villareal says in the first of six planned videos. “In Tucson sector, 66 percent are actively avoiding apprehension. Some of these are hardened criminals with previous convictions in the U.S. for violent crimes.”

click to enlarge
Screenshot from the first Tucson Sector video, showing migrants fleeing within the sector.
By the numbers, Tucson agents did apprehend more single adults than families or unaccompanied children, but the sector didn't respond to questions about how many of these adults had previous criminal convictions.

But as a whole in Arizona, 61 percent of the 131,759 people apprehended were either unaccompanied children or part of a family, CBP statistics from the federal fiscal year, which ended in September, show. While Tucson apprehended around 16,000 families, Yuma apprehended around 50,000 family units, which are defined as being composed of at least one child traveling with a biological parent or legal guardian. Yuma Sector additionally arrested roughly 7,000 unaccompanied children, as opposed to Tucson Sector's 5,000.

Agent Jose Garibay of the Yuma Sector confirmed that the sector was not planning to make a video highlighting its own apprehensions, and that the majority of the families they took into custody gave themselves up at the border.

Villareal has previously appeared in social media videos through the agency’s Twitter, which are designed, in his own words, to “dispel misinformation” about Border Patrol to the public. Earlier this year, CBP Arizona shared a video of him leading a tour through a Tucson holding facility, which is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit due to the poor conditions for migrants in its custody, to demonstrate the current quality of care in the facility. Conditions reportedly improved after a 2016 court order related to the lawsuit.

Villareal "has made it a priority to communicate with the public and the media challenges that are faced by Tucson Sector Border Patrol and the hard work the men and women of the Border Patrol do every day,” said Agent Joseph Curran, a Tucson Sector spokesperson.

In spite of that stated priority, the Tucson Sector has not yet granted Phoenix New Times' requests to visit the holding facility, which were first made in July.