The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit Wednesday in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York on behalf of five journalists who were allegedly tracked, detained and interrogated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Beginning in spring of 2018, migrant caravans had begun attracting significant attention in the US. The media outlet NBC 7 San Diego revealed in March 2019 that DHS engaged in intelligence collection that targeted activists, lawyers and journalists working on issues related to migrant caravans and conditions at the US-Mexico border.
Between November 2018 and January 2019, five freelance journalists separately and at different times traveled to Mexico to document people attempting to travel by caravan from Central America to the US-Mexico border. The journalists re-entered the US through a pod of entry, where they were referred to secondary inspection.
According to the complaint, the journalists were subjected to questioning pertaining to their course of work. Although each journalist was subjected to a different set of questioning, common questions included whether they knew anyone who assisted migrants and how they supported themselves as journalists. Many of the journalists were shown a book of photographs and asked whether they could identify anyone on the page.
According to one of the claims set forth in the lawsuit:
The border officers’ questioning of Plaintiffs regarding their activities as journalists in Mexico substantially burdened Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, association, and the press. It required Plaintiffs to disclose confidential information about their observations, sources of information, and/or work product, including the identities of individuals with whom they may have interacted in the course of their work as journalists.
The ACLU is seeking an injunction to expunge any records regarding the questioning, as well as an injunction to inform the journalists about those records.