Photojournalist questioned at U.S.-Mexico border for second time

January 2, 2019

Freelance photojournalist Ariana Drehsler was stopped for a secondary screening and questioned while entering the United States from Mexico on Jan. 2, 2019.

Drehsler arrived around 11 p.m. on Jan. 2 at San Diego’s San Ysidro port of entry from Mexico, where she had been documenting the caravan of Central American immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. for wire service United Press International.

Similar to a border stop at the same port of entry just days before, she was stopped and questioned by three officials wearing civilian clothes.

“They were the same two people from the first time, as well as another,” Drehsler said. “They said, ‘Oh, we brought a new person,’ and they were like, ‘We mentioned you to this other guy.’” She said the officials made a point to say she would not have to wait as long as last time.

“Before they started asking me questions, I said I was not in Tijuana on New Year’s Day, because I had a feeling this would happen,” she said, referring to an incident the day before, where U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents had fired at migrants attempting to climb a wall to enter into the U.S.

Drehsler said that one of the officials replied, “You took the words right out of my mouth.”

In an attempt to shift the conversation away from the journalists covering the migrant caravan, Drehsler said she brought up the presence of activists, such as those present in Tijuana from Seattle.

“[Border officials] mentioned the new caravan, and asked if the people in the new one understand how hard it is for people to seek asylum at the border. I said I had no idea. They asked about the organizers and activists and said their presence has dropped off. I didn’t say anything, I didn’t know.” 

Just before leaving the secondary screening and entering the U.S., Drehsler said the border agents asked her whether she rented or owned her home.

Drehsler told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that she was confused about the relevance of the question. “[The agent] said she just wanted to know for yourself,” she said. “I said I rented.”

Like her previous border stop on Dec. 30, 2018, none of her belongings, notes, or devices were searched. A few days after this incident, Drehsler would be stopped a third time.

“I didn’t have anything to hide, but I still felt weird answering their questions,” she said. “I felt like an informant.”

CBP did not immediately respond to request 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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