U.S. Border Patrol officials received no official requests and little warning ahead of Elon Musk’s highly publicized Sept. 28 visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, according to emails obtained by NBC News.
The emails, acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request, show government officials discussing and briefing each other on the visit, in which Musk appeared in a cowboy hat at the border site near Eagle Pass, Texas, with Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas. The two discussed immigration as Musk broadcast live video to the social platform X of a scene that included dozens of detained migrants.
The documents were provided in response to a request from NBC News specifically pertaining to Musk’s visit. Musk’s name appears to be redacted throughout the documents, but the emails match the dates of his trip to the site and his interactions with Gonzales. In one portion of the emails, an officer describes in detail an interaction that Musk appeared to livestream on X. Gonzales’ name was not redacted.
In an email sent with the documents, the Border Patrol explained that the federal code “Permits withholding of records and information about individuals when disclosure would be a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
The Border Patrol did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
Musk and Gonzales did not respond to emailed requests for comment.
Musk has become increasingly outspoken about U.S. political issues, and has repeatedly discussed immigration online. He has also become an outsize figure in Texas, where his companies have made major investments and purchased large swaths of land.
The incident garnered significant attention at the time, bringing in over 22 million views on X and generating headlines.
Even as Musk posted publicly about the potential of a visit to the site, border officials said in emails that they had not received any official requests from Musk or Gonzales.
On Sept. 26, Musk first posted on X about the possibility of a visit, writing in response to another user: “They are being overwhelmed by unprecedented numbers — just hit an all-time high and still growing! Am going to visit Eagle Pass later this week to see what’s going on for myself.” He hinted again at a visit in a reply to a different user the next day.
The emails show a special operations supervisor warning on Sept. 27 that the Border Patrol’s Office of Public Affairs had said Musk and Gonzales may appear at the border, and that Musk had arrived in the area a day earlier.
“He may approach and engage USBP personnel,” the officer wrote. “He should be asked to remain on the press side of the area.”
The email continued, “DHS [Department of Homeland Security] has not received any official request to accommodate Mr. Gonzales or [redacted] at this time. Please notify DRT [redacted] if any USBP personnel encounter Mr. Gonzales, [redacted] or any other persons that present themselves unannounced.”
On the day of the visit, Musk only posted once he arrived at the site, and officers reported that they were caught off guard when Gonzales and Musk appeared.
“Del Rio Sector (DRT) was notified that [redacted] was touring the Eagle Pass [redacted] with US Representative Tony Gonzalez. DRT personnel were not advised prior to arrival,” an official wrote. The official said that “multiple Sheriffs from different counties are in attendance as well.”
In a follow-up email, a Border Patrol employee wrote, “UPDATE: [redacted] approached BP Operations PAIC on scene” and “advised him that USBP could not be on camera.” The officer also noted that Gonzales spoke about Border Patrol operations, which was part of Musk’s livestream.
In the footage posted by Musk, Gonzales can be heard suggesting they interview Border Patrol agents. Musk asked the agents if they were OK appearing on camera, and they said they weren’t allowed to be. Afterward, Musk still captured several agents on camera in the video.
Eagle Pass has become a focal point of discussions around immigration in the U.S. particularly among conservatives, as the small town has faced an influx of migrants crossing through it. On Sept. 22, before Musk’s appearance, the Department of Homeland Security said that there were 2,600 illegal crossings over the southern border through Eagle Pass in 24 hours.
During the visit, Musk said he wanted to welcome “hardworking and honest” migrants into the country, but keep out migrants who are “breaking the law.” He said the U.S. should “stop a flow of people that is of such magnitude that we’re leading to a collapse of social services.”
The incident caused some controversy at the time, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., referring to it as a “joyride” in a post on X.