Documents obtained by NBC 7 Investigates show the U.S. government created a secret database of activists, journalists, and social media influencers tied to the migrant caravan and in some cases, placed alerts on their passports.
At the end of 2018, roughly 5,000 immigrants from Central America made their way north through Mexico to the United States southern border. The story made international headlines.
As the migrant caravan reached the San Ysidro Port of Entry in south San Diego County, so did journalists, attorneys, and advocates who were there to work and witness the events unfolding.
But in the months that followed, journalists who covered the caravan, as well as those who offered assistance to caravan members, said they felt they had become targets of intense inspections and scrutiny by border officials.
One photojournalist said she was pulled into secondary inspections three times and asked questions about who she saw and photographed in Tijuana shelters. Another photojournalist said she spent 13 hours detained by Mexican authorities when she tried to cross the border into Mexico City. Eventually, she was denied entry into Mexico and sent back to the U.S.
These American photojournalists and attorneys said they suspected the U.S. government was monitoring them closely but until now, they couldn’t prove it.
Now, documents leaked to NBC 7 Investigates show their fears weren’t baseless. In fact, their own government had listed their names in a secret database of targets, where agents collected information on them. Some had alerts placed on their passports, keeping at least three photojournalists and an attorney from entering Mexico to work.