A U.S. journalist says a Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent threatened to perform a cavity search on him during a five hour detainment at the New Mexico border last month.
The journalist, Andy Beale, traveled with a friend to the Santa Teresa border checkpoint on June 6 to begin a new photography project analyzing the similarities between U.S. and Israeli border fences.
According to Beale, an ICE agent approached as he photographed the area and told him that as long as he did not take pictures of agents he would be left alone.
Shortly after, a group of ICE agents arrived in the area and began demanding identification as he continued photographing the fence. Beale says he and his friend were then immediately taken to a nearby immigration building where they would be handcuffed to a bench for the next three hours.
“Finally, two middle-aged men in street clothes came in. One identified himself as FBI and the other as DHS,” Beale told news site Photography Is Not A Crime.
The agents reportedly accused Beale and his friend of attempting to profit off the photographs, a felony according to the FBI agent. Trying to access Beale’s camera, one agent said, “Well, we’re going to be here for awhile then” after Beale refused to sign a consent form.
After making a short phone call, agents began discussing what charges could be brought against Beale despite no law barring journalists from photographing the area. Under duress, Beale eventually gave federal agents consent to search his camera in order to have his friend freed from custody.
Beale said that one ICE agent said, “You can see our people in that one. I’d rather they didn’t know how our people are set up” as he deleted photos with the FBI agent.
Another ICE agent even went as far as to claim that the incident was a “national security issue” before Beale was eventually released. After being released, a female Border Patrol agent attempting to intimidate Beale reportedly said that she had the authority to “look inside” him as he walked out the building.
“I was shocked to see this level of authoritarianism in the United States,” Beale said.
Despite the encounter, Beale was able to retain several photos of the area.
Journalists across the board have been met with increased hostility in light of the recent border crisis. Earlier this month, Infowars reporter Kit Daniels was threatened with federal prison time by the Department of Defense for documenting an illegal alien shelter at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
According to the DoD, Daniels was engaged in “unauthorized photography and broadcast” that threatened the “safety and security of the installation.”
“It would appear that DoD officials are somehow more threatened by a journalist reporting on illegal immigration than they are with illegal aliens using military accommodations at taxpayers’ expense while homeless vets wander the streets,” Daniels wrote.
While in Murrieta, California covering protests at a Border Patrol processing center this week, Daniels and fellow Infowars reporter Joe Biggs were confronted by Border Patrol for attempting to film by the side of the road. Ironically, the processing center was better guarded than the border itself.
“Today police erected barricades and pushed back peaceful protesters from public areas,” Daniels said, noting the massive police presence.
Despite President Obama placing a gag order on Border Patrol agents in an effort to stifle their speech as well, Hector Garza boldly said that the U.S. government was complicit in human smuggling this week.
“Why would anyone want to hire a smuggler when the U.S. government is actually doing it for free?” Garza said.