Photojournalist questioned at San Ysidro border

December 30, 2018

While covering the migrant caravan in Mexico, freelance photojournalist Ariana Drehsler has been stopped for secondary screenings each time she has re-entered the United States since December 2018.

At around 12:15 a.m. on Dec. 30, 2018, Drehsler arrived at the San Ysidro port of entry in San Diego to cross back into the United States. She had been covering the migrant caravan for wire service United Press International. She would be stopped again on Jan. 2 and Jan. 4.

Drehsler said that the U.S. border agent who had her passport asked her a couple of questions before informing her that she would need to go to secondary screening.

“A man and a woman in civilian clothes came up to me and took me into another room. They asked me what I was doing in Tijuana, who I work for, what other outlets I’ve worked for, my editor’s phone number,” Drehsler said. “They also asked about my background as a photographer.”

She said that she was asked about what she knew about the caravan, people crossing the border illegally, and details about the shelters for migrants in Mexico.

“I didn’t hide anything, but I also didn’t give them information like the names of fellow journalists. And they also didn’t ask me for specific names.”

Drehsler told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that the border officials informed her that her passport had been “flagged,” but they did not know why, and they indicated that she might want to budget more time for border crossings since she could be stopped again.  

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents did not search Drehsler’s notes, electronic devices, or baggage, and she was permitted to bring her phone into questioning. She left the port of entry and entered the United States around 1:25 a.m.

CBP did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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

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