A cautionary tale about border crossing

Georgetown

 

By Caitlin Kelly

Horrifying story about Customs and Border Patrol from The Intercept:

In retrospect, I was naive about the kind of agency CBP has become in the Trump era. Though I’ve reported several magazine stories in Mexico, none have been about immigration. Of course, I knew these were the guys putting kids in cages, separating refugee children from their parents, and that Trump’s whole shtick is vilifying immigrants, leading to many sad and ugly scenes at the border, including the farcical deployment of U.S. troops. But I complacently assumed that wouldn’t affect me directly, least of all in Austin. Later, I did remember reading a report in February about CBP targeting journalists, activists, and lawyers for scrutiny at ports of entry south of California, but I had never had a problem before, not in a lifetime of crossing the Texas-Mexico border scores of times on foot, by car, by plane, in a canoe, even swimming. This was the first time CBP had ever pulled me aside….

Cooperation didn’t earn me any leniency. Next up was a thorough search of my suitcase, down to unscrewing the tops of my toiletries. That much I expected. But then a third officer, whose name was Villarreal, carefully read every page of my 2019 journal, including copious notes to self on work, relationships, friends, family, and all sorts of private reflections I had happened to write down. I told him, “Sir, I know there’s nothing I can do to stop you, but I want to tell you, as one human being to another, that you’re invading my privacy right now, and I don’t appreciate it.” Villarreal acknowledged the statement and went back to reading.

That was just the beginning. The real abuse of power was a warrantless search of my phone and laptop. This is the part that affects everyone, not just reporters and people who keep journals…

Around the three-hour mark, I became completely passive. Confinement in a blank room is a soft form of torture, especially if you suffer from a crippling caffeine addiction, as I do. They were “fresh out” when I demeaned myself by meekly requesting coffee. For a long time, I sat slumped in the chair with a mounting headache while Moncivias finished typing up his report on me. He would pause, carefully consult something on my phone, and then go back to typing. This went on for another hour.

It was around 4 p.m. when Moncivias finally finished up and informed me, anticlimactically, that I was free to go. I couldn’t wait to get outside because the detention area was freezing. No wonder Spanish-speaking migrants call CBP detention la hielera — the icebox. I took my phone and laptop and silently packed up my luggage, which still lay disemboweled on the desk, underwear and all. Pomeroy was gone by this time. As I was walking out, I said to Moncivias and Villarreal, “It’s funny, of all the countries I’ve been to, the border guards have never treated me worse than here, in the one country I’m a citizen of, in the town where I was born.”

“Welcome back to the USA,” Moncivias said.

 

If you care about press freedom — hell, any civil rights — make time to read all of Seth Harp’s story.

It is chilling.

15 thoughts on “A cautionary tale about border crossing

    1. Jan Jasper

      I read the entire story in the link Caitlin provided. It’s ironic that because this journalist had not been arrested, he had no right to call an attorney.

  1. I was rivetted by Seth Harp’s ordeal on The Intercept. Really well written. To be treated like a quasi-criminal in your own country by fellow Americans is very scary.

    In my next blog post, I might post the website of The Intercept to share with others, I didn’t know of it before. Truthful, undiluted, independent reporting – we barely get that anywhere else.

    I look forward to reading about your experience at Ten Thousand Waves resort. I’d love to go there.

    1. It was a very frightening read — especially as someone who is not even a U.S. citizen.

      I am writing a long post about our week in Santa Fe, with photos — we went yesterday to 10,000 Waves and it was lovely.

  2. President Chump is the most cruel, stupid, ignorant, creepy president in US history. He is America’s first psychopathic President. He doesn’t understand the fundamental principles that underlie this country when it is beling true to itself. He doesn’t understand humaness. He repelling our allies, and alienating the decent citizens among us. Unlike after 9-11, when we next need friends, they won’t be there.

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