What We Learned This Week: The U.S. Tracked Journalists At Southern Border

By David Schonauer   Friday March 15, 2019

Donald Trump often complains about journalists.

This week we learned that his administration has also been tracking them at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“In an attempt to determine who was behind the caravans that were bringing large numbers of migrants from Central America to the southwest border, the Trump administration created a list of activists and journalists whom they subjected to additional scrutiny when they entered the United States last year,” noted The New York Times.

The list indicates that alerts were placed on the photojournalists’ passports, and in some cases notes that the photojournalists were interviewed by federal agents, added PDN, citing a report from San Diego media outlet  7 Investigates. Photojournalists on the list include Kitra Cahana, Ariana Drehsler, Go Nakamura, Bing Chen Guan and Robert Wilson.

“According to the 7 Investigates report, Drehsler was pulled into lengthy screenings and warned by customs officials that an alert was placed on her passport. Cahana told 7 Investigates she was detained for 13 hours in Mexico City before being denied entry into the U.S. for no reason, and that she was denied entry into Mexico on other occasions,” noted PDN.

“Customs and Border Protection officials said they had identified people because they may have had information in connection to assaults against Border Patrol agents that took place last November and in January, but said that gathering this type of information was standard,” reported The Times.

“C.B.P. does not target journalists for inspection based on their occupation or their reporting,” said an agency spokesman.

Nonetheless, immigration authorities faced criticism over the secret database. “The implications of this are really disturbing. It is unconstitutional for the government to target people for punishment or retaliation solely based on their first amendment protected activity,” Esha Bhandari, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, told The Times.

In a bipartisan letter released Monday, two senators, Democrat Ron Wyden and Republican Chuck Grassley, called on U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan to provide an unclassified briefing on the operations, noted The Intercept.

“Unless CBP had reason to believe the individuals in question were inciting violence or physical conflict, it is deeply concerning that CBP appears to have targeted American journalists at our borders,” they wrote.

Here are some of the other photo stories we spotlighted this week:

1. Top Photos from the 2019 POYI Competition

Fabio Bucciarelli was named Photographer of the Year in the 76th Pictures of the Year International competition for a portfolio featuring his coverage of Gaza and the United States-Mexico border (above), noted The New York Times, which spotlighted some of the contest’s top images. Jessica Phelps was named Newspaper Photographer of the Year for her work at The Newark Advocate, her hometown newspaper in central Ohio. The Multimedia Photographer of the Year award went to Emily Kassie of the Marshall Project.

2.  Underwater Photographer of the Year

UK-based photographer Richard Barnden is the grand-prize winner of the 2019 Underwater Photographer of the Year contest for his image “The Gauntlet,” which shows the final moments of life for a parrot fish swimming among a gathering of sharks near Fakarava South Pass, a famous diving spot in French Polynesia. More than 5,000 images were submitted to this year’s contest from around the world. The contest’s website has all the contest’s winning shots — and stories from the photographers who made them.

3. Alec Soth Returns to Photography, Quietly

Alec Soth’s 2004 book “Sleeping by the Mississippi” helped establish him as a skilled chronicler of American life and successful photographer. But in 2016 he decided to step back from a burgeoning career:  Soth stopped traveling and making photos of people, intending to live more in the moment rather than try to possess it, noted The New York Times. After a year of  contemplation, he returned to photography, capturing people in the quietness of their homes. The work is being published this month by MACK.

4. Documenting the Bomber Jackets of WWII

The A-2 bomber jackets of World War II aviators tell stories. Often the flyers had their jackets hand-painted with elaborate images symbolizing missions flown, unit crests, enemy aircraft shot down, and more. "The multitude of designs and colors created is mind-boggling," says John Slemp, an Atlanta-based commercial photographer who has been photographing the vintage bomber jackets for a series called "Even Captains Prayed," which we featured. The painted jackets, once a morale booster, speak to time when bomber crews faced daunting odds for survival.

5. Kezi Ban Leaps Into Motion

Stopping time with photography is magic, says photographer Kezi Ban. But working in motion has, she told us, opened new creative doors and business opportunities. "It's so funny to think back how video has become such an integrated part of our lives, and it will continue to do so," she says. "Just a few years ago, when I first started in video, it was wasn't what it is now." She launched her photography career in 2011, specializing in fashion editorial and architectural work. Her video work, like her commercial photography, is distinguished by its sensitivity to mood and expression.
At top: From Alec Soth


  1. Marshall Brooks commented on: March 15, 2019 at 1:11 p.m.
    Thank you for the tracking journalists at the Southern Border piece. Vital. All your news coverage, in fact, is much appreciated. Great job.

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