The federal government is currently spending money to pay off informants from within the migrant “caravan” that is headed towards the United States border with Mexico in California.
A group of around 4,000 desperate asylum seekers, mostly from Honduras, have been making their way on foot from Central America, through Mexico, and toward the United States. The president has characterized the group as a migrant “caravan.” He has claimed it is akin to an invading force and has claimed there are “unknown middle easterners” among the group, a claim without any factual support.
According to two Department of Homeland Security officials, DHS is currently collecting intelligence about the so-called caravan using paid informants amongst the group. DHS is also monitoring text communications between members of the group who have been using WhatsApp to communicate with one another.
On Monday, officials from DHS revealed that their sources indicated that a group of migrants planned to run through the car lanes at a border crossing in San Diego. In response, Customs and Border Protection closed all northbound lanes between 3am-6am. The threatened crossing never came to pass, no migrants tried to run across the lanes after all.
John Cohen is the former acting undersecretary of intelligence for DHS. Cohen explained that, while the use of informants in this way is legal, it does raise issues about the department’s spending priorities.
Cohen said, “Those resources have to come from some place. They are not being devoted to thwarting terrorist threats, mass shootings, mailed fentanyl coming into the country or cyberattacks.”
According to Cohen, the migrants do pose both logistical and humanitarian issues but do not seem to be a national security threat. He said, “I find it hard to believe that the highest risk facing this nation comes from this caravan.”
DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman responded saying, “While not commenting on sources or methods, it would be malpractice for the United States to be ignorant about the migrants — including many criminals — attempting to enter our country. We have an obligation to ensure we know who is crossing our borders to protect against threats to the Homeland and any indication to the contrary is misinformed.”