U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Independent filmmaker stopped while crossing U.S.-Mexico border

Incident Details

Date of Incident
December 28, 2018

Border Stop

Target Nationality
US Citizenship Status of Target
U.S. citizen
Denied Entry?
Stopped Previously?
Asked for device access?
Asked intrusive questions about work?
December 28, 2018

An independent documentary filmmaker was stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border twice by U.S. officials while following the migrant caravan for a film project.

The foreign-born citizen is based in the U.S. and asked to not have his name used for fear of reprisal.

The filmmaker told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that on Dec. 28, 2018, he was crossing the San Ysidro border near San Diego, California, by car when Mexican authorities pointed out that his temporary work visa had been mis-stamped. The authorities let him cross, however, into the United States.

On the U.S. side, the filmmaker went into the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office to show an officer the error, and asked him to correct it. The officer started to until another agent said of him, “I know that guy—he’s in the video at the border.”

The officer was referring to a video taken of the journalist filming at the border. The video seemed to have been taken from a car, and in it, the filmmaker was clearly recognizable.

“I was following a family of migrants,” the filmmaker said, “And border patrol was trying to trip me up, trying to get me away from the family I was following.”

When CBP took away the family and pushed the filmmaker back, he said he gave them no resistance.

While inside the Customs office, a CBP officer told the filmmaker to sit down, that he’d “be there for hours,” and “a special team was going to come in.”

The officers continued re-watching the video, and the filmmaker waited for nearly 2 hours. Finally, he said, there was a shift change in the office and the next officer on duty cleared him to go.

A week later, while returning to Mexico through the same San Ysidro border, the filmmaker was stopped again, and the car he was in and his phone were searched.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has detailed nearly a dozen border stops of journalists following the migrant caravan. In March, San Diego’s NBC 7 investigative news team received leaked documents showing the U.S. government had been tracking and keeping dossiers on American journalists, lawyers and activists involved with the caravan. The news station also received an internal email showing the order to increase surveillance came from the head of the city’s Department of Homeland Security.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].