Border Patrol cancels exercise near voting site after criticism

Border Patrol cancels exercise near voting site after criticism
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The U.S. Border Patrol canceled a scheduled "crowd control" exercise Tuesday at a port of entry in a Hispanic neighborhood of El Paso, Texas, amid concerns over the drill's timing on Election Day.

The exercise was scheduled as part of a "mobile field force demonstration" ahead of the potential arrival of a Central American migrant caravan.

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But the timing and relative proximity to polling stations drew the ire of civil rights activists and Democrats, who accused the Border Patrol of voter intimidation.

A Border Patrol representative told The Hill that the exercise had been postponed "out of an abundance of caution and due to inaccurate reporting that caused unneeded confusion in border communities."

But canceling the event did not allay the critics.

"It shouldn’t have taken outrage by us, congresspeople and the community for Border Patrol to know this would cause serious problems on Election Day," said Terri Burke, executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas. "These suspicious exercises scheduled in a Latinx neighborhood raise serious concerns about whether this was intended to intimidate Texans from exercising their right to vote.”

The exercise comes as President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senator introduces bill to hold online platforms liable for political bias Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally MORE has ordered 5,200 active-duty military personnel to the border to assist the Border Patrol and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in dealing with what he calls "an invasion."

Trump has been criticized for escalating border security measures in the midst of a contested midterm election, a move his opponents see as political in nature.

Tuesday's Border Patrol exercise received similar criticism.

Bold PAC, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus's campaign arm, called the exercise a "voter intimidation tactic," adding that it would not stop voters from choosing Senate candidate Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkePoll: Six Dems lead Trump in Florida match-ups Willie Nelson on supporting O'Rourke: 'Anything he wants to do, I'm with Beto' Willie Nelson on supporting O'Rourke: 'Anything he wants to do, I'm with Beto' MORE (D-Texas) and Veronica Escobar, the Democrat running to take over O'Rourke's El Paso seat.

The chairman and vice-chairwoman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus in Texas, Democratic state Reps. Rafael Anchía and Mary Gonzalez, respectively, said in a joint statement that "the made-for-media ‘crowd control’ drill, conducted on Election Day, is a cynical effort to suppress the Latino vote in a region seeing record turnout,” according to a report in The Texas Tribune.

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been and will continue to prepare for the potential arrival of thousands of people migrating in a caravan heading toward the United States, through the Southwest border," a representative said in an email to The Hill, adding that the exercises will resume after the election.