Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday denied an allegation that he illegally crossed the United States-Mexico border last month, then disobeyed a command from U.S. Border Patrol to stay put for an investigation.
Speaking at an unrelated event at a Brooklyn public housing development, de Blasio blamed the Trump administration for what he said was the leak of an “absolutely ridiculous,” untrue story to distract from the federal government’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy that separated families accused of crossing the border illegally.
In a letter dated June 25 that was obtained by The Associated Press, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said de Blasio violated immigration laws during his trip to Texas on June 21. De Blasio visited Tornillo with other mayors to protest the since-rescinded family separation policy.
The mayors tried to visit a holding facility, but they were denied entry. De Blasio then went into Mexico to get a better view of the facility and was spotted taking photos along the Rio Grande River flood plain located south of a port of entry, The AP reported.
Border Patrol claims that de Blasio didn’t have permission to be there and that the mayor was told not to leave so an investigation could take place. But de Blasio crossed back into the United States instead of waiting for investigators, the letter alleges.
De Blasio, however, said on Wednesday that he “respected” the border, adding: “at no point did we disregard any instructions from the federal authorities — period.”
“My security detail raised this issue to the border agents, said that we wanted to get a different view of this tent city,” de Blasio said. “The border agents consulted with their supervisor and they agreed, and they let our cars cross the American border into Mexico at a normal checkpoint.
“We came back the exact same way, both times, showed passports, went through with the approval of the agents,” he added.
De Blasio did not say whether the passports were stamped or answer any questions beyond his statement. A spokesman declined to produce the passports.
The mayor said he believes news of the letter, weeks after his visit, is an attempt to “distract from an inhumane policy.”
Under the former White House policy, children of migrant parents trying to cross the border into the United States illegally were placed in shelters and foster care while the parents were to be prosecuted. The Trump administration announced the policy in April, but reversed the directive on June 20.
A federal court in California ordered the government to reunite the separated families within 30 days, but only a fraction of the children have been released, provoking a threat of sanctions from the judge.