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Video: When Beto got busted at the border

First-term congressman got more than he bargained for when checking out CBP's handling of Nogales port of entry

Beto O'Rourke announced Thursday that he's running for president. Back in September 2013, during a visit to Nogales, the then-freshman Democrat had an up-close encounter with border security. TucsonSentinel.com captured the story:

O'Rourke, who had just been elected to the House of Representatives from El Paso, was in the Arizona border town as U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva held a hearing on comprehensive immigration reform. Another member of the Border Caucus, U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Texas, also took part.

The trio heard from a group of experts about the challenges of conducting trade, enforcing the law and ensuring the safety of migrants along Southern Arizona's border with Mexico.

During a brief press conference after the hearing, held just outside the Santa Cruz County Historic Courthouse on a hill overlooking the twin cities of Ambos Nogales — which is split into its Arizona and Sonora halves by the U.S.-Mexico border fence — O'Rourke told the story of how he himself had been detained by Customs and Border Protection officers that morning while jogging near the border line.

"I ran up to the arroyo right next to the Mariposa border crossing," he said. "I was briefly detained by a CBP officer as I was running in that area, trying to check things out. So I also want to attest to the vigilance and security that you have at your ports of entry here."

O'Rourke said that border crossings often run more smoothly when congressional delegations show up, and he "wanted to see it incognito" early in the morning before the "official visit."

O'Rourke, who ran ahead of expectations in a race against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz last year but came up short in the Texas Senate election, said he "ran around, tried to get a sense of how long the lines were" and entered a construction area next to the border crossing.

"There were no signs posted saying 'do not enter' — I thought it was a public area," he said.

O'Rourke "returned back and found a CBP officer running on the other side of this fence."

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The congressman didn't have any identification with him, or even his hotel key, he said.

"I said, 'if you'll pull up my name, you'll be able to see (that he was a member of Congress),'" he said. After a short time, a group of CBP officers determined that he was who he said he was, and released him.

"They were really nice about it, and understanding," O'Rourke said.

O'Rourke said he "apologized for spooking them a little bit."

"It's maybe not as dramatic or exciting as it sounds," O'Rourke said.

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Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.com

Beto O'Rourke discussing being detained in Nogales in September 2013.