Tucson Sector Goes into Blackout Mode in Face of Migrant Tsunami

‘It is demoralizing to experience these numbers we’re experiencing’

By Andrew R. Arthur on November 27, 2023

The Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend is normally a quiet time, dedicated to pre-Christmas shopping and football. But not in Border Patrol’s Tucson sector. Things are so busy in the Arizona desert that head of the Border Patrol in the sector, John Modlin, had to call a media blackout there at 2:46 PM EDT, before pulling his Tweet announcing a “pause” in social media accounts and promising “to remain transparent” as the border melts down. That would be a welcome — albeit unlikely — change, but fortunately, Congress is stepping in to continue the flow of information to the American people. Not that the news is good.

Tucson Sector, in Brief

The nine stations in the Tucson sector have responsibility for 262 miles of the Southwest border, from the New Mexico border in the east to the border of Yuma County (Ariz.) in the west.

Speaking of transparency, the Border Patrol hasn’t released staffing figures since FY 2020, at which point there were 3,615 agents assigned to the sector, more than any other sector in the country. That was actually a drop from FY 2019, when nearly 3,700 agents provided security there.

Regardless of how many agents are currently assigned to Tucson sector, they’ve had their hands full, apprehending more than 191,000 aliens in FY 2021, a figure that jumped to nearly 252,000 in FY 2022, and then surged to 373,625 in FY 2023.

In October, the first month of the federal government’s FY 2024, agents in Tucson sector nabbed more than 55,000 illegal entrants, a 140-percent increase over October 2022 (nearly 23,000 apprehensions), placing the sector on track to make 662,000-plus apprehensions this fiscal year.

Those 55,000-plus apprehensions in October were far and away the most for any month in that sector ever. In all of FY 2020, Tucson sector agents made fewer than 66,100 apprehensions, and last month’s apprehensions actually exceeded the sector’s total for all of FY 2018 (52,172).

There are myriad reasons for that increase, from smuggler’s preferences to ease of entry, but the most likely explanation is that, unlike Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who has surged state resources to the border to staunch the migrant flow, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) hasn’t followed course.

Not that she’s completely unphased by the surge. She has quietly continued a program implemented by her Republican predecessor, former Gov. Doug Ducey, to bus migrants out of the Grand Canyon State north (26,513 of them as of November 17). And in September, she tweeted:



But she has not implemented a program akin to Abbott’s “Operation Lone Star” that would redirect her state troopers and National Guard troops to the Arizona-Mexico line to help out those overwhelmed Border Patrol agents in Tucson sector. Talk is cheap, and even blue-checked Twitter isn’t much dearer.

The First Tweet

Speaking of Twitter, here is a screenshot of the first Tweet (since deleted) that Chief Modlin issued on Sunday afternoon:


Tucson BP chief


That pause would have been a shame, because Chief Modlin’s recent Tweets out of Tucson sector have painted a realistic picture of the ongoing chaos there:



It’s just likely not the picture that Chief Modlin’s boss, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, wants the American people to see, given that “immigration” is the biggest electoral vulnerability for Mayorkas’ boss, President Joe Biden.

The Second Tweet

Five hours after Chief Modlin called for a media pause of news from Tucson sector — just before 8:00 PM EDT on the Sunday night of Thanksgiving weekend — he backtracked and issued the following:



If there are two phrases I’m unlikely to equate with one another, it’s “transparency” and the “administration’s border policies”, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. In any event, the chief followed up that Tweet with the following:



Most of the folks who staff Border Patrol’s media shop are either agents or “agent adjacent”, which means that it’s an all-hands effort in Tucson sector right now to round-up, transport, process, and care for the flood of migrants they are encountering.

The problem is that this “round-up, transport, process, and care for” regime usually ends with “and then release”. The Biden administration’s overarching migrant-release scheme is what’s driving the historic record of illegal entries — not just in Tucson, but across the Southwest border — as a federal judge explained in March. Reassigning spokesmen to release migrants more quickly is pure eyewash.

‘It Is Demoralizing to Experience these Numbers We’re Experiencing’

Tucson Chief Modlin recently appeared for a transcribed interview with the House Homeland Security Committee, which released excerpts of the chief’s statements on Sunday, as well. Here’s the most salient exchange:

Q: So based on the data, and in large part the increases over the last few years are pretty significant, is it frustrating for you as the leader of the Tucson Sector when the encounters have kept increasing over a lengthy period of time?

Modlin: So, yes, absolutely. I think, when I look at ’18, ’19, and ’20, those years were about 60,000 people a year, more or less, within a thousand or two in either direction. And then ’21 happened—or—yeah, ’21 happened, and it jumped to 190,000. So it was three times the previous year, which was absolutely for us shocking in Tucson.

And then, thinking it couldn’t go higher, it then went to 250,000 last year, and that did not include the 55,000 that we took from Yuma to help them out and the 170,000 gotaways recorded last year in that as well. And this year we’re on pace to probably hit 300,000. So if that’s the case, then we’ll be five times what we did just in 2020. So that is significant.

As the leader, yes, it’s troublesome, and I would say it is a little demoralizing, because, obviously, I try to do everything I can to support the men and women of Tucson Sector and to, most importantly, obviously, to achieve the securing the border, to keep the border as secure as I can.

And so when we see numbers like this, yes, that is—I don’t remember, I’m sorry, the phrasing of the exact question, but the point is, yes, it is demoralizing to me as the leader of Tucson Sector to experience these numbers we’re experiencing. [Emphasis added.]

Respectfully, that’s “transparency”, and Chief Modlin would serve his agents and the country if there were a little more such candor coming out of the Biden administration.

In announcing that Border Patrol would be “pausing” media releases from Tucson sector in the face of a migrant tsunami, Chief Modlin was shedding more sunlight on the effects of the Biden administration’s border policies than he likely expected. If only he were as candid on Twitter as he is in a cloistered congressional meeting room, the American people would learn the sad — and “demoralizing” — truth.