By Jack Phillips
The Biden administration has given no access to observe or report on Customs and Border Protection (CPB) operations at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to an award-winning photographer and journalist.
Getty Images correspondent John Moore alleged there is a lack of transparency along the border. Last week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stated that Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ trip to the border, including El Paso, Texas, “will be closed to press due to privacy and COVID-19 precautions.”
Moore won a 2019 photo for a Honduran toddler crying at the border.
“I respectfully ask US Customs and Border Protection to stop blocking media access to their border operations,” Moore wrote on Twitter Friday. “I have photographed CBP under Bush, Obama and Trump but now – zero access is granted to media. These long lens images taken from the Mexican side.”
Moore described the current situation as unprecedented.
“There’s no modern precedent for a full physical ban on media access to CBP border operations,” Moore added in another Twitter post. “To those who might say, cut them some slack—they are dealing with a situation, I’d say that showing the US response to the current immigrant surge is exactly the media’s role.
Moore added that the “vast majority of river crossings by asylum seekers happen on federal land in south Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. The federal government controls access to those areas. The Border Patrol has been removing journalists who enter, including recently myself, CBS, others.”
It comes in the midst of a surge of illegal immigration along the border, including thousands of unaccompanied children who are being housed in federal facilities. In January, President Joe Biden rescinded a number of Trump-era immigration rules, including the Remain in Mexico policy, halted the construction of the border wall, and also has said he would support more pathways to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
Republicans have seized on the issue, saying that Biden’s executive actions and messaging led to the unprecedented surge. White House officials, including Mayorkas, blamed former President Donald Trump for allegedly leaving the administration with a broken immigration system.
Separately, White House press secretary Jen Psaki has been questioned during briefings about the lack of press access.
“The DHS oversees the Border Patrol facilities, and we want to work with them to ensure we can do respecting the privacy and obviously the health protocols required by COVID,” the press secretary said on March 18 in response to one question about press access.
A reporter then noted that no photos have been released either about the border crisis.
“Again we remain committed to sharing with all of you data on the number of kids crossing the border, the steps we’re taking, the work we’re doing to open up facilities, our own bar we’re setting for ourselves, improving and expediting the timeline and the treatment of these children,” Psaki said. “And we remain committed to transparency. I don’t have an update for you on the timeline for access, but it’s certainly something we support.”