Border Enforcement from Both Sides Now

In her hit version of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” American folk singer Judy Collins famously sang, “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow, it’s cloud’s illusions I recall….”

According to The Los Angeles Times two American immigration lawyers may have gotten a look at border enforcement from both sides now. And they may wish to heed Ms. Collins’ admonition about clouds giving rise to misleading illusions.

The Times is reporting that two “U.S. immigrant rights attorneys and two journalists who have worked closely with members of a migrant caravan in Tijuana said they had been denied entry into Mexico in recent days after their passports were flagged with alerts by an unknown government.” Predictably, the affected parties have blamed the Trump administration, accusing it of retaliating against them for their opposition to President Trump’s immigration policies.

The attorneys, Nora Phillips and Erika Pinheiro, work for a nonprofit group called Al Otro Lado (Spanish for “the other side”). The group describes itself as “a bi-national, direct legal services organization serving indigent deportees, migrants, and refugees in Tijuana, Mexico.”

In reality, however, Al Otro Lado is part of a network of pro-illegal-alien organizations that regularly lodges questionable lawsuits against U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These complaints are intended to prohibit immigration officers from performing their lawfully assigned duties. And they are nearly always filed in the Ninth Federal Judicial Circuit, which is both well known for judicial activism and overtly hostile to any type of immigration enforcement.

So, yes, it is entirely possible that the U.S. government flagged Mmes. Phillips and Pinheiro, placing them on some type of watchlist. That would be particularly likely if either the Department of Justice or the Department of Homeland Security were concerned that Al Otro Lado was sending employees to Mexico in order to encourage caravan-members to file bogus complaints against CBP or ICE personnel.

However, no U.S. federal agency has publicly announced that it has any fears that Al Otro Lado, or any of its employees, are engaged in any type of illegal activity. Therefore, another explanation for Phillips’ and Pinheiro’s exclusion from Mexico is much more probable: they simply wore out their welcome.

Mexican authorities are already faced with a volatile foreign mob camped out in Tijuana and causing conflict with the local Tijuaneros. Another caravan of Central Americans is on the way and expected to arrive in the greater Tijuana area sometime this week.

Thus, it is more than likely that the authorities in Mexico City just determined that they did not want more foreign agitators making the situation worse. As a sovereign nation, Mexico is not under any obligation to allow American attorneys into its territory to advise illegally present Hondurans, Nicaraguans and Salvadorans on how to get into the United States.

Rather than President Trump “retaliating” against open-borders activists, it might well be that Mexico has simply begun looking at border enforcement from both sides now. That’s a positive development.

Meanwhile the activist lawyers of Al Otro Lado seem so lost in the clouds that all they can recall are anti-Trump illusions.


About Author


Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.


  1. avatar

    Joni Mitchell also wrote another brilliant song called The Circle Game. The title is an apt description of what our immigration policy has been for 30 years. Pretend to do something, get on tv and blather on about what a victory this is and then right back to the same thing, as in no enforcement. Everyone that praises the 2013 “comprehensive reform” bill claims it would have “secured the borders”. All it really would have done is give an amnesty to 20 million illegals and the only border security was a plan to study a plan to look at a plan that maybe might possibly sorta do something, but nothing for years down the road. Just like the “one time” amnesty of 1986 which never gave us the promised border enforcement.

    What Trump is doing is saying is no more of the baloney. You have to laugh at someone like Jim Acosta of CNN saying Trump is making reporters a target. Perhaps if Acosta and company were more interested in reporting than stunts it would help. When this last caravan was on it’s way there was Acosta arguing with Sarah Saunders that it didn’t even exist, only to arrive at the border a few days later.

    CNN can’t be much worse than NBC, another master of propaganda. Yesterday on the Today Show an actress who works with Jussie Smollett, who was supposedly attacked by Trump supporters, was carrying on about the “incident”. Never mind that the story had more holes than swiss cheese to begin with. In spite of numerous videos in the area and his building, zero evidence was produced. Both he and his manager, who claim to have been on the phone with each other at the time of the incident refuse to let the police examine the phones. Maybe the media should focus on informing, not advocacy.