Outside magazine, February 1996
"We call it a bailout," explains U.S. Border Patrol spokeswoman Ann Summers. "A bunch of folks all jump out at the same time and run every which way." Summers is referring to the 39 illegal aliens who stormed out of a white Dodge van in southern California last fall when officials determined the vehicle belonged to someone else--namely, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. The PR fiasco began when Babbitt, on the west coast delivering speeches to tout the Interior agenda, awoke one morning to discover that his rented van was missing from the parking lot of his San Diego hotel. The ten-seater didn't surface again until the next day, when Border Patrol officers detained it for a routine look-see. "We ran a check on the plates," says Summers, "and everyone bolted." Officials rounded up the passengers and returned them to Mexico. Babbitt, meanwhile, rented another van.