Southern border visit by WA congressional candidate reveals: ‘It’s worse than you think’

In order to stand out in a crowded seven-way Republican primary race for the 5th congressional district, Spokane City Councilman Jonathan Bingle recognized the importance of familiarizing himself with national issues. Aware that immigration and border security ranked high on Gallup’s Most Important Problem list, Bingle took it upon himself to visit the southern border, aiming to gain a deeper understanding of these pressing matters.

“The individuals I had the opportunity to meet in Nogales emphasized the importance of recognizing that this issue extends beyond just Arizona or Texas; it is a problem that affects the entire United States,” shared Bingle. “They conveyed to me that despite not being considered a traditional border town, the current crisis has transformed every town into a border town.”

Bingle is one of the Republican candidates vying for the seat that will be left vacant by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers at the end of her term. Joining Bingle in the race are Medical Lake Mayor Terri Cooper, Spokane County Treasurer Michael Baumgartner, State Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber, Ferry County Commissioner Brian Dansel, retired civil servant John Guenther, and radio host Rene Holaday.

In the race so far, Democrats who have thrown their hats into the ring include Carmela Conroy, a retired foreign service officer, Ann Marie Danimus, a small business owner, and Dr. Bernadine “Bernie” Bank, an OB-GYN.

During his recent trip to Arizona, Bingle met with various individuals and groups, including Santa Cruz County Sheriff David Hathaway, Border Patrol agents, and Republican candidates for county supervisor. After wrapping up his visit, he shared his insights and observations in an interview on Saturday.

The border’s true appearance: The Center Square reveals the actual look of the border.

Bingle: More intense than you think. It’s easy to overlook the fact that Mexico is a developing country. Just across the border, poverty is a stark reality. The wall, however, exceeds your imagination in terms of size and scale. It is not just large, but also incredibly imposing. With razor wire covering its top and middle, and towering at a height of 15 to 20 feet, it is both grand and highly effective.

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Many individuals have attempted to cross the border, highlighting the struggles faced by those who cannot afford to pay the cartels. It is important to note that areas without a physical barrier are often controlled by cartels.

In the afternoon, we witnessed a constant stream of individuals attempting to cross the border wall every five minutes. It was a brazen act, as they would wait for the Border Patrol to pass by before making their climb. Adding to the chaos, two cartel scouts boldly strolled along the Mexico side, mocking the efforts of the Border Patrol. According to the Border Patrol, such occurrences are a regular sight.

TCS asked, “What did the Border Patrol agents have to tell you?”

Bingle: One officer, who was nearing retirement age, really stood out to me. He was a big guy, like the biggest bouncer you’ve ever seen. He confided in me about the toll his job had taken on his body from chasing and fighting people. He would try to apprehend them, but they would often be released without consequence. He expressed his deep frustration, saying, “Every day I go to work, I feel like I’m betraying my country.” The sadness in his voice was unforgettable and continues to haunt me.

Every morning, the Border Patrol discovers a gathering spot known as the Mariposa pad where around 200 to 300 individuals patiently await their pick-up.

Agents have informed me that they often encounter individuals with gang tattoos crossing the border. Despite being aware of their criminal affiliations, these agents are compelled to allow them entry. One agent shared a particularly concerning incident where he apprehended an individual on the terror watch list. Unfortunately, due to a lack of available detention space, the agent was forced to release this individual back into the community.

TCS: Who accompanied you on the tour?

Two Republican candidates for county supervisor, as well as Sheriff David Hathaway, who is a Democrat, were primary contacts. Gerry Navarro, a former Border Liaison Officer for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, is running for the position of supervisor candidate. Jesus Jerez, on the other hand, is a former assistant port director in Nogales.

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According to Jesus, the southern border is the main entry point for a staggering 90% of the fentanyl that makes its way into the United States. The stories he shared were truly mind-blowing, shedding light on the magnitude of the issue.

TCS: What did you learn from the trip that stood out to you the most?

Bingle: The situation is even worse than you can imagine. The morale of Border Patrol is at an all-time low, and coyotes are taking advantage of vulnerable women and children. Shockingly, it is estimated that between 7 to 10 million people have crossed the border illegally since Biden assumed office. To put this into perspective, that’s an average of 200,000 people per state, which is equivalent to creating a new city the size of Spokane in all 50 states. Even on the lower end of the estimate, 7 million is still larger than the total population of 34 states combined, and all of this has happened in just the past three years.

TCS: What’s the Next Step?

Bingle emphasizes the urgent need to put an end to the cartels’ enrichment. As Border Patrol continues to process individuals who enter the country unlawfully, the cartels are exploiting this situation to engage in human and drug trafficking.

When individuals migrate through Mexico, they receive guidance from organizations on what to say during their journey. The crucial phrase they are instructed to use is “I fear for my safety.” These organizations also advise them to state their intended destination and request to be directed to the location with the highest number of pending cases.

New York currently faces a significant challenge with an eight-year backlog in cases, which means that these cases can originate in New York but have the potential to impact anywhere in the country.

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TCS asked if Spokane was mentioned as a destination.

Bingle believes that Spokane is one of the places where drug traffickers are encouraged to come to, even though it was not mentioned specifically. This is because Spokane County is designated as a High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area by the federal government. However, Bingle acknowledges that this is just his opinion.

They are realistically heading to locations where sanctuary cities exist and where there is a significant backlog of immigration cases.

TCS: How do you plan on incorporating the insights gained from this trip into your campaign?

Border control is a crucial concern, ranking among the top three issues. According to conversations with Border Patrol agents, they believe that the necessary policies are already established, and what is required is an administration that will effectively enforce them. It is imperative to reinstate the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) and the remain-in-Mexico policy.

In order to address the issue of an eight-year backlog in New York City and other sanctuary cities, it is crucial to make changes to the process of granting asylum. Additionally, it is essential to increase the number of immigration judges in order to expedite the processing time.

TCS: Is there anything I should have asked you but didn’t?

One of the most heart-wrenching sights during our time in the fields was encountering wreaths or crosses marking the spots where individuals had lost their lives attempting to cross. It is truly devastating to think that someone believed the prospects in this country were so promising that they were willing to sacrifice their life to pursue them. Witnessing such tragedy serves as a poignant reminder of the incredible opportunities we have in our great nation, and how easily we can take them for granted.

Being born and living in America fills you with an immense sense of gratitude.

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