Lawyers, Reporters and Activists Detained at the Border by Customs and Border Protection Officials
March 21, 2019By Dario Castañeda
Recently, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials issued a list with over 60 attorneys, reporters, and activists who are to be stopped for questioning by border agents when crossing the U.S.-Mexican border at the San Diego-area checkpoints. The list dated January 9, 2019, is titled “Migrant Caravan FY-2019 Suspected Organizers, Coordinators, Instigators, and Media" and includes many U.S. citizens. Agents have questioned or arrested at least 21 of them, according to documents obtained by NBC station KNSD-TV and interviews with people on the list. People who have been questioned say that CBP is focused on them and increasingly pulling them aside for what is known as a "secondary screening." During that screening, journalists and lawyers describe being told that they are being interviewed as part of a national security investigation and that they must give officers access to their cellphones. Many do not know their rights as American citizens to refuse to answer such questions or request a lawyer.
In a statement, a CBP spokesperson said: "CBP has received the allegations, is reviewing them, and requests additional information from NBC News so we can conduct a thorough review of the facts. … If misconduct is substantiated, appropriate corrective action will be initiated. CBP is fully committed to earning the public trust through accountability and transparency within the law."
An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, has already spoken out to the CBP policy and said the government cannot use the pretext of the border to target and punish activists critical of its policies, lawyers providing legal representation, or journalists simply doing their jobs. CPB’s actions are ultimately a First Amendment violation.
One thing this case highlights is the limited rights that individuals have in the border environment. The underlining effect that a policy like this may have are yet to be seen. Nevertheless, immigration attorneys state that the practice is starting to scare away would-be volunteers who try and help asylum-seekers attempting to cross into the United States.
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