Dem calls on Nielsen to end monitoring of reporters, lawyers tied to migrant caravan

Dem calls on Nielsen to end monitoring of reporters, lawyers tied to migrant caravan
© Getty Images

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Health Care: Juul's lobbying efforts fall short as Trump moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes | Facebook removes fact check from anti-abortion video after criticism | Poll: Most Democrats want presidential candidate who would build on ObamaCare Overnight Energy: Democrats call for Ross to resign over report he threatened NOAA officials | Commerce denies report | Documents detail plan to decentralize BLM | Lawmakers demand answers on bee-killing pesticide Oregon Democrats push EPA to justify use of pesticide 'highly toxic' to bees MORE (D-Ore.) is calling on Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenFox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network DOJ to Supreme Court: Trump decision to end DACA was lawful Top immigration aide experienced 'jolt of electricity to my soul' when Trump announced campaign MORE to end a reported watch list of journalists and attorneys involved with one of the migrant caravans at the southern border.

Some people in the database were questioned or had their passports flagged, according to NBC 7, which first uncovered the government monitoring. 

Merkley decried the list in a letter to Nielsen, saying it was a violation of the First Amendment. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"This program undermines our constitutionally protected right to free speech and free press, and must end immediately," he said in the letter. 

He said that the program's title, "San Diego Sector Foreign Operations Branch: Migrant Caravan FY-2019 Suspected Organizers, Coordinators, Instigators, and Media," suggests that the government "is engaged in a secret investigation targeting at least 59 individuals because of their statements, reporting, and other expressions of dissent protected by the First Amendment." 

"Taken together, this program appears to be a coordinated effort to intimidate and harass U.S. citizens and foreign nationals who provide assistance to legal migrant asylum seekers," Merkley's letter continued. 

Merkley will be leading a congressional delegation to Tijuana, Mexico, to investigate that issue as well as others relating to asylum seekers. In his letter, Merkley asked Nielsen several questions including whether any similar lists exist and whether the people on it are considered to be security threats. 

"In response to recent incidents in November 2018 and January of this year, which included assaults against Border Patrol Agents, CBP identified individuals who may have information relating to the instigators and/or organizers of these attacks," Andrew Meehan, CBP's assistant commissioner of public affairs, said in a statement regarding the database.

"CBP does not target journalists for inspection based on their occupation or their reporting," he added.

CBP and the Department of Homeland Security did not offer additional comments.

--This report was updated on March 12 at 11:36 a.m. with Meehan's comments.