Yes, you already know that the wheels are coming off American democracy. But seriously, WTF IS THIS? NBC reports:

Customs and Border Protection has compiled a list of 59 mostly American reporters, attorneys and activists for border agents to stop for questioning when crossing the U.S-Mexican border at San Diego-area checkpoints, and agents have questioned or arrested at least 21 of them, according to documents obtained by NBC station KNSD-TV and interviews with people on the list.

CBP has an enemies list of people critical of US immigration policy, and they're using it to harass journalists, lawyers, and activists at the border? And they're pretending that they have reasonable suspicion that the people detained "were present during violence that broke out at the border with Tijuana in November"? UH UH.

Let's see if we've understood this story correctly. On November 25, a group of 500 desperate Hondurans and Salvadorans, the sad remnant of the scary "invasion caravan," arrived in Tijuana to present themselves at the San Ysidro border crossing and request asylum. Which is entirely legal. After peacefully marching up to 2,700 miles, they were stopped on a bridge by a phalanx of Mexican police in riot gear. Some of the migrants went around the police, crossing the dry river bed in an attempt to make a run for the crossing. A handful of men tried to climb over the first layer of border fencing -- beyond which they'd have to evade multiple layers of sensors and barriers -- at which point US border agents shut down the crossing and tear gassed the crowd. Remember those pictures of barefoot babies in diapers running from tear gas canisters? That's what the the US government is using as a pretext to search the phones of American lawyers crossing our border.

So the government's rationale for questioning these lawyers is that they spent hours counseling these poor, frightened people on how to navigate the labyrinthine US immigration and asylum system, and then said, "Ah, fuck it. Just take your baby and run toward the soldiers with the big guns pointed at you"? And the journalists chimed in, saying "Yeah, climb over the wall, it'll be fine"? REALLY?

In response to a KNSD [local NBC affiliate] question about the list, a spokesman for CBP said it is protocol to "collect evidence that might be needed for future legal actions."

"To determine if the event was orchestrated…CBP and our law enforcement partners evaluate these incidents, follow all leads garnered from information collected, conduct interviews and investigations, in preparation for, and often to prevent future incidents that could cause further harm to the public, our agents, and our economy," the spokesman told KNSD.

In point of fact, it is legal for CBP to search cameras, cell phones, and laptops of border crossers, although they can't use them to access information stored remotely without a warrant. Yes, they can make you give up your password. But, as the ACLU's Esha Bhandari says, they can't gin up a fake justification to search the devices of people whose only crime is advocating against US policy or writing mean things when our goons teargas babies:

This is an outrageous violation of the First Amendment. The government cannot use the pretext of the border to target activists critical of its policies, lawyers providing legal representation, or journalists simply doing their jobs. We are exploring all options in response.

Is CBP really trying to catch "instigators," or are they just harassing immigration advocates so that they think twice before helping desperate people with their asylum claims? Because they're doing a bang-up job with the second one.

Two other immigration lawyers who frequently travel to northern Mexico to help asylum seekers attempting to cross into the U.S. say the practice is starting to scare away would-be volunteers.

"It has a real chilling effect on people who might go down there. I was going to go this week, but I had to worry about whether I could get back in [to the U.S.]," one lawyer speaking on the condition of anonymity told NBC News.
Other immigration lawyers told NBC News they have been stopped and questioned in places far from San Diego. In Juarez, an attorney was stopped and accused of being a human smuggler. She was released only after the officers took her contacts and data from her phone. She was also asked what she was telling asylum seekers to say to U.S. authorities, according to another lawyer speaking on her behalf.

Perhaps Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen can address this issue next time she appears before the House Homeland Security Committee. Surely she will testify with her usual forthrightness and candor to bring clarity to .... JUST KIDDING. She'll lie her ass off again.


[NBC / ACLU / Committee to Protect Journalists]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.


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