(Español) A San Diego news station (KNSD) has discovered and verified a U.S. government dossier of journalists who reported on the migrant caravan in 2018. The station’s source comes from within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This revelation comes after months of journalists complaining of harassment at the border when attempting to enter either the United States or Mexico, which resulted in many passports being flagged for secondary interviews one journalist eventually being denied entrance to Mexico. The journalists were consistently singled out and subjected to secondary screening, which include a lengthy interview process that can last hours. By law, Border Patrol Officers have great leeway in regards to what questions can be asked and what property can be searched when people are entering the United States. It is not uncommon to have an agent search your belonging or attempt to gain access to personal devices, such as phones, laptops, or, in these specific circumstances, photographs on cameras. The agency argues these searches are necessary in order to maintain security at the border in regards to who is entering the country and “collect evidence that might be needed for future legal actions and to determine if [the caravan] was orchestrated,” according to a spokesperson.
Regardless, the whistleblower within DHS has stated the dossiers created go above and beyond the legal constraints of the agency, stating “We are a criminal investigation agency, we’re not an intelligence agency.” Photos released by KNSD show the names of the people along with the titles “organizer,” “instigator,” and “journalist.” The list is comprised of “ten journalists, seven of whom are U.S. citizens, a U.S. attorney, and 47 people from the U.S. and other countries,” according to KNSD. This is consistent with reports from journalists stating the agents were very interested in what they were doing in Mexico, who they worked for, and what they were reporting or photographing, when questioned during their secondary interviews.
This comes months after the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders warned of potential “chilling” consequences for journalists who attempt to report on immigration issues. Alexandra Ellerbeck, CPJ’s North American program coordinator, has stated “We will meet with CBP today and ask them once again to commit to no longer using secondary screenings as a pretense to harass journalists or gather intelligence,” with Esha Bhandari, of the American Civil Liberties Union adding, “The government cannot use the pretext of the border to target activists critical of its policies, lawyers providing legal representation, or journalists simply doing their jobs.”