Over the weekend we learned that officials in Tijuana had closed the sports arena where many of the migrants in the caravan had been staying and were moving them to a new facility further south. That didn’t sit too well with some of the new arrivals, however, and they decided to take matters into their own hands. We knew that those who weren’t quickly processed for asylum requests were going to try jumping the border because their leaders had said so when they were still hundreds of miles from the United States. But now the groups attempting this game of “hide and seek” at the border have new members in their crew. Reporters are going along for the ride, as is detailed in this lengthy report from Buzzfeed.
Unwilling to wait weeks in Mexico to press their asylum claims, a group of 30 caravan members, with a BuzzFeed News reporter in tow, search for a way to skirt the border barriers.
Javier Piñeda and his sleeping, 10-year-old son huddled in the dirt with a group of Central Americans from the caravan, eyeing their latest obstacle: the US border fence and the agents who patrol it.
Piñeda was one of about 30 people who’d walked two hours to get here. They’d been kicked out of the sports complex where they’d been housed since arriving in Tijuana about two weeks ago, but instead of moving to the new shelter authorities had set up on the outskirts of town, Piñeda and the others had decided they’d try crossing the border along the beaches, where Tijuana meets the Pacific Ocean.
Seeing reporters embed themselves in the middle of the action is nothing new, including in war zones. In this case, the reporter was Meghan Dhaliwal, who was traveling with the group described in the linked article. If you read all the way to the end of the story (complete with brief biographies of some of the migrants) you’ll find examples of caravan members who didn’t make it across. Some were captured while others turned back after being spotted by Border Patrol agents.
But the report also doesn’t specifically say that nobody made it across. And given the recent arrest numbers coming from immigration officials, we know that some of them are succeeding in illegally crossing every day. That brings us back to the recurring question of when journalists stop covering the story and actually become part of it.
Going down to Mexico and speaking to members of the caravan, telling their stories and recording interviews is just basic journalism. No problem there. But what about when the reporter joins in with a group of people who state up front that they are planning on breaking the law? This reporter was on the run with the group and watching some of them digging holes under the fence and searching for illegal tunnels. At what point are you no longer reporting, but aiding and abetting criminal conduct?
I’m not saying that any citizen is obligated to try to stop illegals from crossing the border or even notify immigration authorities. The story being covered here is worth telling and it’s reasonable to report on it. But there’s something unsettling about having it go this far. If a journalist was covering gang violence in Baltimore and went along on a trip that turned out to be a drive-by shooting, wouldn’t they be obligated to cooperate with the police to bring the perpetrator to justice?
We’re back to the question of why illegal immigration is somehow treated as a “lesser crime” than most others. Surely there are some eithical questions to be addressed here.