U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Intercept reporter told “You are not a journalist” when stopped by border officials

Incident Details

Date of Incident
April 30, 2021
Nogales, Arizona

Border Stop

Denied Entry?
Stopped Previously?
Asked for device access?
Asked intrusive questions about work?
April 30, 2021

Ryan Devereaux, who reports for The Intercept, was stopped and told “You are not a journalist” by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official at the Arizona border with Mexico on April 30, 2021, as he returned from covering a protest in Nogales, Mexico.

Devereaux, who was traveling with photojournalist Ash Ponders, said that after a long wait at the border, officials called Ponders first for processing. According to Devereaux, Ponders and a CBP official were deep in a long conversation and disagreement when the official tried to take their phone. The photojournalist managed to lock it.

“The officer reached for it. Ash was then taken to a group holding cell and I was called forward,” Devereaux told the Tracker.

Devereaux said the same officer then asked what he was doing in Nogales. “I told her I was a journalist and working in Nogales that day,” he said.

A second officer appeared and asked Devereaux what he did for a living. “I said I was a journalist who covers border issues and that I was in town covering an asylum protest,” he said. “I had already produced my passport. I was told to produce evidence that I was a journalist. I gave the officers an Intercept business card with my name on it.”

At this point, Devereaux said he was told by a border official that he was not a journalist and was taken to the same cell where Ponders was being held.

“After handing over our belongings, which sat on a table and were not moved, we sat in the cell with a handful of other detainees,” Devereaux said. “Eventually I was told I could go. I was never questioned.”

Devereaux said he was told he could not wait in the area for Ponders but must wait outside.

After being released, Devereux tweeted that CPB officials should not be harassing journalists “I was just taken into secondary screening after being told I was “not a journalist.” @ashponders is still being detained. Going on an hour now.”

Ponders, whose case is documented here, was strip-searched and held for 2 1/2 to three hours before being released, the photojournalist told the Tracker.

CPB didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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