Photo, Video Restrictions at Border Violate Free Speech, ACLU Suit Says

Two men who were ordered by federal agents to delete photos from their camera after they tried documenting possible misconduct along the Mexican border are behind a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The lawsuit, filed on their behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union, claims the restrictions on photos and recording video at the ports of entry prevent the public from documenting possible misconduct by authorities.

ACLU activists say authorities deleted their photos at California border crossings with Mexico. They say the policy is a violation of constitutional rights to free speech and against illegal search and seizure.

Customs and Border Protection officials had no immediate comment when asked Thursday about the lawsuit and its policy on taking photographs.

The lawsuit said plaintiff Ray Askins took photos of an inspection area at a Calexico border crossing in April from a city street. After being handcuffed and searched, authorities returned his digital camera with photos erased.

The Calexico port director, Billy Whitford, told Askins in an email the next day that permission is needed to take photos and video at Customs and Border Protection facilities. The email makes no mention of restrictions on taking photos from a nearby street.

Another activist, Christian Ramirez from Equality Alliance San Diego, said he had about 10 cell phone photos deleted by authorities in June 2010 at San Diego's San Ysidro port of entry. According to the lawsuit, he was on a pedestrian bridge, capturing images of male officers patting down women.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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