U.S. Custom and Border Protection agents posted a dramatic video to Twitter on Wednesday showing a “large scale civil unrest readiness exercise” that took place in California last month, sparking criticism because the heavily-produced clip was released during a weeks-long government shutdown.
Ominous orchestral music plays in the background of the 95-second video, which includes shots showing lines of shield-carrying agents, an agent strapping on what appears to be a gas mask and aerial footage that captures the advancing lines of officers from above. It wraps up with a scene of agents surrounded by smoke, which fades to a black screen with a U.S. Border Patrol seal.
The message from the El Centro Sector’s Twitter account that accompanied the video said U.S. Border Patrol and Office of Field Operations officers carried out the exercise on Dec. 7 — quickly shutting down the Calexico West Port of Entry and then reopening it, all in the course of 20 minutes.
The port was “back to normal” after that, according to the Tweet.
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But the video and post drew criticism on Twitter, where it appeared as a fight over funding for President Trump’s proposed border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border has left large parts of the federal government shut down. The shutdown has furloughed 800,000 federal employees, including those working under the Department of Homeland Security, which includes Customs and Border Protection, according to the Associated Press. Federal employees deemed “essential” have continued to work, but without pay.
The federal shutdown prompted questions about the video’s production.
“Shouldn’t the creepy fascists who made and tweeted this crazy, horrifying video be on furlough?” Brian Beutler, editor in chief of the liberal platform Crooked Media, wrote on Twitter Thursday.
Some responded directly to the El Centro Sector’s Twitter post with critiques.
“Wait, @DHSgov actually put this out themselves? It’s either tone deaf af or intimidation,” one Twitter user asked. “Either is totally unacceptable.@SecNielsen, it’s long past time for you to resign. You’re a disgrace and history will remember you as such.”
“We’re supposed to be proud of this gestapo move?” asked another poster on Twitter.
Other commenters just appeared to be perplexed.
“Well that’s interesting...to say the least,” one wrote.
The Calexico West Port of Entry in California’s Imperial Valley east of San Diego ranks as the “third busiest land port of entry” in the state, according to the federal government. About 4 million vehicles and 4.8 million pedestrians cross heading north into the United States each year.
The crossing, which connects state Highway 111 to Mexico Federal Highway 5, also connects the communities of Calexico in the U.S. and Mexicali in Mexico. It’s currently undergoing a $370 million expansion, according to the government.
More than 100,000 Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement workers aren’t getting paid because of the shutdown, which is now the longest in the country’s history, Foreign Policy reports.
“Their personal and financial well-being is being held at bay here, and they are still being asked to come out and perform their front-line mission with the same level of energy,” said former acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Jayson Ahern, according to Foreign Policy.
Trump has said the border agents stand by him in the push for a wall.