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Why does US Customs and Border Protection suddenly have an “urgent” need for riot gear?

Troops in Laredo, Texas.
AP Photo/Eric Gay
US troops on the banks of the Rio Grande in Laredo, Texas.
By Justin Rohrlich
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) station in Laredo, Texas, has an “urgent” need for riot gear, according to federal contracting documents.

solicitation for supplies issued on Nov. 15 says CBP “requires the following items, brand name only”:30 Flex Force riot suits; 45 riot helmets; eight CTCF50 riot filters (4-pack); 15 36-inch wooden batons; 12 Avon FM54 gas masks (size TBD); 20 24”x48” riot shields; 73 pairs of Mechanixwear “breacher gloves” (25 pairs XL; 30 large; 15 medium; three small). Bids were due back that day.

CBP did not immediately respond to questions about the apparent urgency of this purchase order or the reason for the sudden acquisition of more riot gear. Conceivably, it could be replacing old equipment or will be issued to newly hired officers. But Laredo also is one of the border towns in the area where US president Donald Trump sent thousands of active-duty soldiers to head off the so-called migrant “caravan” heading north from Central America.

Although the caravan members are primarily asylum-seeking refugees trying to escape violence and persecution back home, Trump has likened their migration to an “invasion.” And it seems CBP officers will be dressed for one, if the agency gets the supplies it says it needs.

CBP is looking to purchase 30 FlexForce riot control suits for the Laredo station.
CBP is buying a dozen Avon FM54 gas masks. “The flexible, panoramic single lens visor minimizes visual stress and provides best in class field of view and compatibility with weapons sights and night vision equipment while providing ballistic protection and scratch resistance,” says the manufacturer.

The caravan, which is thought by some to be headed for California and not Texas, reportedly includes a large number of families with children. There have been few reports of violence; the most recent have involved attacks on the migrants themselves.

City officials in Laredo have expressed concern that any CBP and military operations, “if not properly weighed, may have a lasting detrimental impact on our image, tourism, and international business.”

CBP “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,” the agency said in a statement last week. “These preparations include training exercises, deploying additional CBP personnel and partnering with the US military to harden our (ports of entry) and the border area between the ports of entry.”

A question submitted by a prospective vendor underlines CBP’s apparent desire to fill this order ASAP:

Vendor: “I’m getting a quote but need an extension until Mon.”
CBP: “Unfortunately, due to the urgency this Buy cannot be extended unless no bids are received at closing. Thank you.”

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