Austin Mayor Steve Adler has been accused by federal authorities of illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border last month during a trip to a Tornillo tent city housing migrant children, according to a report by Fox News.
Fox News published the story Wednesday, citing a letter U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials sent to New York police. The letter also accused New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio of illegally crossing the border.
According to Adler, border agents at the Tornillo Port of Entry didn’t detain de Blasio or others after they apparently crossed into the U.S. from Mexico while trying to get a better view of the facility near El Paso.
“I wish the border agents were devoting all this effort to reuniting children with their families, as the courts have required,” Adler said in a statement. “If this is an attempt to intimidate or silence such calls, it won’t work.”
The letter was not sent to Adler’s office, according to his staff.
De Blasio on Wednesday called the allegation “absolutely ridiculous.”
Adler joined most of the Austin City Council in traveling to Tornillo, where on June 21 a delegation of mayors organized a rally against the tent encampment that has become a visible symbol of President Donald Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policy.
More than 2,300 children were separated from their parents as a result of the administration’s policy, which criminally prosecutes anyone caught crossing into the U.S. illegally. At Tornillo, the mayors said Trump had failed to address a humanitarian crisis of his own making.
De Blasio, Adler and several other politicians, including City Council Member Greg Casar, went to the holding facility, but were denied entry. Adler, Casar and de Blasio then crossed into Mexico to get a better view of the facility.
According to the letter, a uniformed Border Patrol agent noticed a group standing in the Rio Grande flood plain south of the Tornillo Port of Entry and taking photos of the holding facility. The agent asked if anyone from Border Patrol or public affairs was on hand to authorize the group’s actions. A New York Police Department inspector replied no, according to the letter, and when the agent asked the group how they arrived, they pointed to Mexico.
The agent told the group’s members that they had crossed the border illegally. According to the letter, the agent asked the group to remain there together until he tracked down a supervisor and took them to an official crossing for an inspection per federal law. The group disregarded the order, the letter stated, walking back to their vehicles and driving back to Mexico. They re-entered the U.S. by car through a port of entry about three hours later.
De Blasio said border agents approved the crossing after his security detail asked to venture into Mexico so the mayor and other elected officials could get a different view of the tent encampment. It was unclear if any other members of the Austin City Council were with Adler and Casar when the confrontation described in the letter occurred.
De Blasio said the Border Patrol agents checked with their supervisor before allowing the officials’ cars to exit and return via a normal checkpoint. He said both times the group’s members showed their passports and crossed with the approval of agents at the entry point.
A Customs and Border Protection spokesman had no comment.