Biden to #BuildTheWall? ABC, NBC Cover Flip-Flop as CBS Slams Smugglers Terrorizing AZ

October 5th, 2023 2:42 PM

On Thursday morning, ABC’s Good Morning America (GMA) and NBC’s Today surprisingly gave airtime to what had to have been disappointing news to report in President Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas having decided to join Team #BuildTheWall and continue the work started by predecessor Donald Trump along the southern border.

And, while CBS Mornings didn’t cover that, they had a lengthy piece spotlighting the toll illegal immigration and an open border has had on the safety of local law enforcement as they struggle to keep roads safe from high-speed smuggling operations to carry illegal aliens to parts north.



GMA found it so pertinent that it fetched time in both hours. In the first, senior White House correspondent Selina Wang announced the “stark reversal” as Biden flip-flopping on having “previously strongly accused Trump for what he said was an ineffective border wall policy and vowed in 2020 to not build another foot of the wall if he was elected.”

“But his administration is really struggling to deal with that rising number of illegal border crossings...[I]t’s already facing pushback from Democrats and environmental advocates who say this is ineffective and that it will bulldoze through endangered habitats,” she added.

Co-host Robin Roberts opened the second hour’s segment by noting the wall construction will begin thanks to the administration “waving 26 federal laws” and, after repeating most of her comments from the first hour, Wang said Biden had “been facing criticism from fellow Democrats in New York and Illinois to do more.”

To pay for the new section of wall, Wang said “the Department of Homeland Security is...using funds that Congress already approved in 2019 specifically for border wall construction.”

NBC’s Today even put it as an opening tease at the top of the show, read by co-host Hoda Kotb: “Reversing course. The Biden administration now set to build a new section of the border wall. Inside the surprising move to help stop the record flow of illegal crossings into Texas.”

Kotb would later call it a “dramatic reversal” while senior White House correspondent Gabe Gutierrez seemed almost exasperated at this “striking acknowledgment that changes are needed to stem the migrant influx at the southern border.”

Gutierrez explained that two of the laws excised are well-known in the Clean Air Act and the Safe Water Drinking Act and buried Biden with two examples of Biden denouncing Trump and efforts to #BuildTheWall:

This is a major reversal for President Biden who, during the 2020 campaign, vowed that not another foot of wall would be constructed under his administration. The President also issued a proclamation in 2021 stating that “building a massive wall that spans an entire southern border is not a serious policy solution.” It’s “a waste of money that diverts attention from threats to our homeland security.”

Gutierrez then pivoted to what brought this change and how it came following sustained cries for help from New York City and a letter from far-left Governor J.B. Pritzker “calling the immigrant influx untenable and calling out the federal government’s lack of intervention and coordination at the border.”

Over on CBS, co-host Tony Dokoupil began their story on the dangers posed by drug and human smuggling (and, arguably, human trafficking) operations in Cochise County, Arizona, calling it a “rampant” “crisis that’s turning one Arizona county into a deadly speedway” with deputies “risking their lives...trying to chase down these criminals.”

Arizona-based correspondent Kris Van Cleave explained many of the drivers are Americans who respond to social media offers of cash for high-speed trips from the desert to Phoenix.

Sadly, he said “[n]early 20 people have died in crashes related to smuggling in that county alone.”

He was some of what happened in his work of enterprise journalism with Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Oletsky and Sheriff Mark Dannels (click “expand”):

VAN CLEAVE: Our night down there ended with smuggling suspects in handcuffs and a deputy in the hospital. A high-speed pursuit near the border in southeast Arizona. It’s just another night for sheriff’s deputies trying to contain a problem turning rural Cochise County into a raceway for cartel-led human smuggling.

COCHISE COUNTY, AZ SHERIFF’S DEPUTY CHRIS OLETSKY: It is 100 percent Uber for the cartels.

VAN CLEAVE: The day started with us on patrol with Deputy Chris Oletsky, a 20-year Marine veteran who joined the sheriff’s department three years ago.

OLETSKY [TO DRIVER]: Sir, how are you?

VAN CLEAVE: He’s part of a five-man team focused solely on interrupting human smugglers. [TO OLETSKY] How often are you seeing high-speed pursuits?

OLETSKY: I mean, to give you an idea, I think it was this Tuesday there were five in two hours —


OLETSKY: — maybe three hours.

VAN CLEAVE: Five pursuits in just a few hours in a single county covering about 6,200 square miles, roughly the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, with 83 miles of Mexican border and just 99 sworn deputies. 


VAN CLEAVE: Chases like this captured on officer body camera video in May. The driver crashed and made a run for it as his car caught on fire.


COCHISE COUNTY, AZ SHERIFF MARK DANNELS: Smuggling and trafficking, drugs, humans — it’s every day. It’s every day.

VAN CLEAVE: Every day. County sheriff Mark Dannels.

DANNELS: And every time I hear a deputy or an officer or an agent saying we’re in pursuit, we have a fair to yield, I cringe because, right there, my citizens are placed in danger.

VAN CLEAVE: And that’s a reality. In October, 2021, a 16-year-old suspected smuggler crashed into a 65-year-old headed to her own birthday dinner. She died. Last year, Arizona passed a strict new felony human smuggling statute trying to address the problem. The sheriff says the vast majority of the more than 400 arrested since are American citizens who came from out of town. Many recruited by drug cartels using social media. Messages like these intercepted by investigators promising would-be drivers thousands to race migrants away from the border.

DANNELS: We have over 100 juveniles in the last 18 months that we’ve apprehended in this county smuggling all the way to the age 13 and 12 years of age. Down here, driving grandma’s car, a friend’s car, or mom and dad’s car, down here. And it’s social media.


VAN CLEAVE [TO DANNELS]: What is that doing to the quality of life in this county?

DANNELS: There’s no respect for human life going on. Cartels don’t care about America. They don’t care about you and I or anybody else that they’re exploiting. They care about that dollar bill and power.

Van Cleave and his CBS crew received a shocking first-hand look as, during their evening ride-along, Oltesky “slipped and fell off the embankment...about ten feet down onto concrete” after having “[laid] down a spike strip” as part of a pursuit.

“It’s now when what had become routine turned into anything but. And the life and death consequences this community faces became instantly real,” Van Cleave said.

Stuck in the desert, his team “flagged down this passing Border Patrol agent who called for help.”

Van Cleave even confronted the driver after she was apprehended. Tossing back to the show’s stunned co-hosts (as if some of them didn’t know such dangers existed due to the country’s open border policies), he shared an update on Oletsky (click “expand”):

VAN CLEAVE: The driver, 47-year-old Bernadette Fuaga of the Phoenix area, was arrested a couple miles up the road. The spike strip took out three of her tires. At least six suspected migrants ran from the scene. [TO FUAGA] Why didn’t you stop for the police? She’s charged with human smuggling and DUI and will likely face additional charges stemming from Oletsky’s injuries. [TO DANNELS] One of your deputies was almost killed last night.


VAN CLEAVE [TO DANNELS]: It make you angry?

DANNELS: It pisses me off because we’ve been talking about this for almost three years. I’ve testified in front of Congress. I’ve met with anybody that will listen to us. And every day that goes by, I see another tragedy.

VAN CLEAVE [TO DANNELS]: You’ve got folks that are hellbent on getting away. Would it be safer to not pursue?

DANNELS: We have revised our pursuit policy. We’ve revised our operational interdiction. You name it, we’ve done it. When you have a car going 100 miles per hour and you turn your head and go the other way and they kill a family, how do you live with yourself? You can’t. We have to do something.

VAN CLEAVE: Deputy Oletsky is in stable condition. He suffered a broken femur, broken pelvis, broken wrist, and broken elbow. There’s some concern about a potential head injury from the fall. But the sheriff says before he went into surgery he told his wife he plans to go back to work, back to patrolling those rural roads turned into smuggling speedways.


DOKOUPIL: Kris, are the things that you saw out there, that you couldn’t fit into the story itself that you didn’t have footage of, that stand out to you?

VAN CLEAVE: Yeah. Certainly the sheriff’s frustration. You got a sense of that in his answer there where he really blames Washington for not taking action on immigration reform, but also just the fact that these deputies are out there often by themselves. They don’t have car partners, back up could be miles away. You know, we were fortunate that we were able to flag down that Border Patrol agent who was racing to join the pursuit. And that was able to get help on the way, and that border agent rushed through a barbed wire fence to get down to that injured deputy to offer assistance. But these guys are out there risking their lives, often on their own in — in a very big county without a lot of back up.

Of course, as you might have noticed, nowhere in that piece was any blame placed on the President, Mayorkas, or their party.

To see the relevant transcripts from October 5, click here (for ABC), here (for CBS), and here (for NBC).