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Journalist stopped at border for the fourth time, questioned about immigration reporting

August 2, 2019

Freelance multimedia reporter Brooke Binkowski was stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers while she was re-entering the United States on Nov. 24, 2018, the fourth time in six months.

Binkowski told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that she was returning from a reporting trip to visit the migrant caravan moving that month, and was crossing later in the day than she normally would, which worried her.

“I knew heading back there was going to be a problem,” she said.

The Tracker has documented other cases where CBP officers targeted journalists covering migrant caravans for questioning about their reporting and sources. Freelance photojournalist Ariana Drehsler told the Tracker that when officers asked about her reporting on the caravan and about organizers and activists, “I felt like an informant.”

Binkowski told the Tracker that while the officers did not ask to search her phone and were less aggressive than during her previous stops, it felt like an “escalation.”

“They kept me: no threats, no yelling. But that was almost worse because if felt like they were just keeping me because they could,” Binkowski said.

CBP officers held her for about an hour, Binkowski said, questioning her about where she had been in Tijuana and about her work as a journalist before letting her cross into the U.S. It was their “mindless exercise of power,” she told the Tracker, that pushed her to stop crossing the border. She hasn’t been back since this trip.

“In the end I stopped crossing not because of myself, though now I think it was prudent,” Binkowski said, “But because I was worried about potentially getting other people’s names on a list, and that kind of responsibility in this time is just too much.”

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

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