U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist stopped at the border multiple times, told passport is flagged

Incident Details

Date of Incident
July 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?
Gönna Ketels

Freelance multimedia reporter Brooke Binkowski, shown here in 2015, was stopped multiple times while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

— Gönna Ketels
July 1, 2018

Freelance multimedia reporter Brooke Binkowski was stopped a second time by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in July 2018 as she was re-entering the United States at the San Ysidro port of entry.

As with her other stops, Binkowski told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that she was directed to a secondary screening area to have both her person and her vehicle searched. Binkowski told the Tracker that she had been in Mexico, in part, “hunting down documents.”

Officers questioned her about where she had been in Tijuana, Binkowski said, and when she told them she was a journalist, she was questioned about her reporting.

Binkowski, a U.S. citizen, told the Tracker that she felt her treatment by the CBP officers was unusual and unacceptable.

“They would go through my stuff and then they would put their hands near their guns or where their guns are supposed to be, they would get in my face,” Binkowski said. She also noted that the exclusively male officers treated her, “a small, 5-foot-3 skinny woman,” as though she was a physical threat.

“For them to be treating me as though I was physically intimidating for them to the point where they would shout things like, ‘Back away, ma’am, you’re going to have to back away! Get back!’ or ‘Don’t give me that attitude,’ it was not acceptable,” she said.

Binkowski told the Tracker she asked to speak to a supervising officer about her treatment. The officer informed her that there was a flag on her passport but that he could not provide any information on what it was for because he did not have access to the details.

He advised her to file a Freedom of Information Act request on her own name, which she did in May 2019. Binkowski told the Tracker that she put off filing the request as other issues took priority and she was uncertain whether she truly wanted to know the answer.

In a letter dated July 11 that Binkowski shared with the Tracker, CBP acknowledged its receipt of her request and advised her that “due to the increasing number of FOIA requests received by this office, we may encounter some delay in processing your request.” It further stated that “the average time to process a FOIA request related to ‘travel/border incidents’ is a minimum of 3-6 months.”

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