Two photojournalists covering the caravan of migrants from Central America — and two U.S. immigration attorneys — were recently denied entry into Mexico after their passports triggered an Interpol alert, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Kitra Cahana, a freelance photographer whose work has appeared in National Geographic and The New York Times, said she was denied entry to Mexico twice in recent weeks.
On January 17, Mexican immigration agents detained her at upon arriving in Mexico City for 13 hours, saying that her passport had been flagged by “the Americans,” according to Cahana.
Attempting to cross the border from Guatemala on January 26, Cahana was detained for five hours and again denied entry.
Cahana, who holds U.S. and Canadian passports, recently spent six weeks in Tijuana photographing the caravan of asylum seekers. She is now in Guatemala, hoping to re-enter Mexico to continue her work.
“I’m in limbo,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “What kind of list am I on? Who put me on this list? And how many journalists is this affecting?”
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Approximately 500 migrants from Central America are currently living on a bridge spanning the border between Guatemala and Mexico (they can freely cross back into Guatemala). Many of the migrants are describing their situation as a humanitarian crisis. They say they have limited supplies of food and water. Early last week Mexico ended its program of fast-tracking visas for humanitarian reasons. New migrants from across Central America are arriving on the border every day. Feb. 4, 2019.
Daniel Ochoa de Olza, a Spanish citizen and a photographer for the Associated Press, said he was detained for four hours when trying to cross from San Diego into Tijuana on January 20 and denied entry.
The incident received widespread news coverage, along with criticism and a demand from the Mexican government for a “full investigation” into the use of nonlethal weapons directed toward Mexican territory
Both Cahana and Ochoa said they had been photographed by Border Patrol officers and had Mexican police take pictures of their passports.
Also denied entry into Mexico were U.S. attorneys Nora Phillips and Erika Pinheiro, leaders of the nonprofit group Al Otro Lado. The Los Angeles-based organization sued U.S. Customs and Border Protection over what it called a denial of access to the asylum process.
Phillips, who is the legal and litigation director for Al Otro Lado, said in a news conference that she was detained after flying to Guadalajara due to the passport alert. She and her 7-year-old daughter had to sleep on the floor and had no food or water during their nine-hour detention, she said.
“I think this is retaliation,” Phillips said. “I think this is because we sued the U.S. government. I think it’s that we’re pointing out gross, flagrant human rights violations being committed by the U.S. government, and they don’t like that.”