Semester Wrap-Up

This semester has really flown by. It’s hard to believe that the term is almost over when it feels like it just began.

With Border Beat I did manage to accomplish a lot of what I set out to do, but as always, there is still more that I wish I had done. For example, I did get more practice with video, which is something I desperately needed, but unfortunately that practice mostly served to make it obvious just how much more practice I need to really get accomplished at it. I’m learning that that is pretty much the normal course of things, though, and hopefully I’ll get more chances to fine-tune my video skills in future.

I had some opportunities to practice my photography as well, which always makes me happy. I also became more adept at Final Cut, thanks to the many, many, many hours I spent in the lab working on my projects. I even learned how to do a few things in Photoshop! Now I’m capable of doing more than merely resizing my images.

However, the best part about this class is that it allowed me to learn more about the border and border life. Before Border Beat, I had been living here without knowing much about life along the border, and had never even been  to the border itself before. Now I feel like I have a better idea of what life here is like, and who the people are who call this region home.

I’ve also learned just how diverse a population Tucson has. Before this class, I had noticed that very few people I met seemed to be from Tucson originally. They are all from somewhere else and moved here. But from this class I’ve learned just how far a lot of them have come.

Hopefully a few of the things I’ve learned and skills I have developed during this class will come in handy in the future, and who knows — maybe even lead to a job!


Kabul Dreaming

Me standing on a bluff overlooking Kabul in March 2010.

This week I’m going to deviate a little from my normal posts, and instead of Tucson I’m going to talk about Afghanistan.

Although there actually is a link (if a somewhat nebulous one) between the two cities. A lot of refugees end up in Tucson, including some from Afghanistan. For Afghan refugees this is really the perfect city for them to call their new home because one of the things that surprised me the most about Tucson when I moved here is how much it reminds me of Kabul.

Now, obviously there are many more differences than similarities between the two cities, but there were enough things that reminded me of Kabul to bring the comparison instantly to mind.

Most of you out there might be wondering right now, “What on earth was she doing in Afghanistan?” and that is a valid question. I traveled to Kabul in March 2010, almost two years ago now, as part of a trip to learn about women’s issues there. The trip was arranged by the San Francisco-based human rights organization Global Exchange, as one of their Reality Tours. Reality tours espouse responsible and educational tourism, where participants can really dive into one particular issue in one particular culture and really get to the heart of the issue, while learning a lot about the culture and country along the way.

I chose to go to Afghanistan for two reasons (one slightly more self-serving than the other): One — I had been interested in what was going on in Afghanistan for a while and following all the news coming out of the country very closely. This led me to want to see what was really going on, what Afghanistan was really like beyond the war. And two — It was just one of the cheapest trips offered. My initial choice had been the trip to Iran, but that was more than three times more expensive and I was earning minimum wage at the time. So I went to Afghanistan, and I haven’t looked back since.

The first, and most obvious, similarity between the two cities is their relative proximity to mountains. Kabul is at a higher elevation, but neither city is far from mountains. Also, there are some small mountains (hills?) that actually go through the city, and these mountains look exactly like the ones to the west of Tucson, like “A” Mountain.

A small village nestled into the foothills of a mountain range just north of Kabul, Afghanistan.

Now, another striking aspect shared by the two cities is their most popular choice of building material, as well as how they build. In Tucson many structures are constructed of adobe, and many houses are surrounded by adobe walls with a gate for access. In Afghanistan most houses are called “compounds” (at least by Westerners) because they are always surrounded by a high wall, sometimes of adobe-like mud (especially in older parts of the city), and sometimes merely metal or cement, with a large metal gate for access.

A brightly painted gate giving entrance to a compound in an older neighborhood in Kabul.

Another similarity between Tucson and Kabul is both cities’ tendencies to flood after every rainfall. However, this also leads to one of the most glaring differences as well, because Tucson has paved roads while very few roads in Kabul, or anywhere in Afghanistan for that matter, are paved. Most are dirt, and then turn to mud, and mud lakes, when it rains. Also these roads cannot be called “smooth” by any stretch of the imagination. Every drive was like riding a jolting roller coaster.

A typical road in Kabul after rain.

Now, in addition to the unpaved roads, the next biggest difference is the air quality. After Kabul I will never take fresh air for granted again. Pollution is a big problem in Kabul. There are a ton of cars, the roads are dirt so traffic is constantly kicking up dust, there is no heating so people burn trash and other things to stay warm, trash is everywhere, and so forth.

Really, however, the dust is the biggest problem. It’s so bad that rain and mud are actually much preferable. By the time we left most of us had picked up a cough and sore throat from it, I actually had a fever for a short time and was sick for about a week after coming home. Even constantly holding my headscarf over my mouth the last few days didn’t help filter it out. One of the main reasons for this, in my opinion, is the lack of plant life in the city. There are precious few places in Kabul where people can go to be in a garden, on grass, or around trees. That is something else I never take for granted anymore.

All those minor problems aside, the trip was simply amazing because we were able to meet so many wonderful people.

I’m often disappointed when I try to tell people about my trip because they have such a hard time seeing past the constant frame of war. There is much more to the country than the war. That is why I am in LOVE with this video, because it shows the beauty of the country and the people. This video is the Afghanistan I saw, and this is why I love it so much.

By Augustin Pictures (Luke and Salome Augustin), shot in Mazar-i Sharif and Kabul, Afghanistan


All Souls

Last night I experienced my first All Souls Procession (since I didn’t go last year), and it wildly exceeded my expectations. I was expecting more of a low-key event, something more casually set up with a good number of participants but definitely not the seemingly endless mass of people that streamed and swayed and danced down the street.

I have to admit, I really loved the whole thing. The entire concept of it, the costumes, the face paint, the creativity, the morbidness, and the enjoyment people seemed to get out of it. Last night it seemed like everyone in attendance really enjoyed themselves as much as I did. The mood was very festive and happy, with a great vibe. Some participants really outdid themselves coming up with creative costumes that ranged from beautiful to creepy to just plain odd.

Entire families got in on the act, with parents, kids, and even babies in costumes and face paint. There were children everywhere and quite a few babies being pushed in strollers. The event is edgy, a little dark, and somewhat creepy, but still okay for kids. Strangely enough, that combination works in this context, even though it usually doesn’t elsewhere. Maybe because the event is intended as a way for families to honor their loved ones…

Unfortunately, I left after a long night with only a handful of barely usable pictures despite having taken hundreds. Photography in low light (or no light) is difficult, especially without the expertise and equipment required to do it well. I have neither, so nearly all of my pictures taken after the sun set are blurry enough to be completely unusable.

Although that did have the unintentional side effect of leading me to play around with my settings, which resulted in pictures like this:

Weird, but kinda cool. Don’t you think?

In addition to people in costume, the procession also included some floats as well as individual shrines dedicated to family members who have died. Large oversize skeletal figures were also in attendance scattered throughout the procession. Several different music groups were staggered through as well and would set the crowd dancing as they went by, including the UA marching band.

After the procession went by, everyone joined in and followed along behind to the Mercado San Augustin, where the finale took place. And what a finale! I’d had no idea that it was going to be such a production, and was completely unprepared for what came next.

There was a lot more fire involved than I was expecting. Which only made it that much more awesome. These are members of Flam Chen, a group which apparently specializes in fire. According to their website, they “create dazzling public spectacle by merging daredevil acrobatics, pyrotechnics and a mastery of light, air, and fire.”

All I know is it went from being pitch black one second to lit like a Christmas tree the next, with fire and smoke everywhere you looked.

Just in case the pyro display at the main stage wasn’t enough to hold your attention, there were several smaller activities in various places, including this, whatever this is:

The purpose of it was never quite clear to me.

But people seemed to enjoy it, with one group even breaking out into an impromptu dance session, fueled by a music group that had just finished their trip through the tunnel.

All in all, it was a night full of offbeat, creative, wacky, slightly macabre fun that is unique to Tucson. All Souls is definitely an event that everyone should experience at least once, and more if possible!

Refugees in Tucson

Part of the reason why Tucson has such a lively and varied multicultural population is because it is one of the many relocation centers in the U.S. for refugees.

A refugee is someone who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” That definition was spelled out by the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), less than one percent of all refugees are ever resettled in a new country, and of that one percent, most end up in the United States.

In the first six months of 2011, the U.S. was the “largest single recipient of new asylum claims” with 36,400 asylum applications during that period, according to UNHCR statistics.

France was the second largest, with 26,100 applications.

If the trends established so far in 2011 continue, this year will bring the highest number of refugees in eight years, with 420,000 total refugees being resettled in new countries.

However, the UN counted 10.4 million refugees at the beginning of 2011, with millions more living in camps run by the UN.

A significant number of the refugees allowed into the U.S. then end up in Tucson, where officially approved resettlement agencies such as the International Rescue Committee, Church World Service, and World Relief, among others, provide for them at first.

The Department of State’s Reception and Placement program supplies resettlement agencies with a one-time amount of $1,800 per refugee cover a refugee’s expenses during their first few weeks in the U.S., an amount which when first applied in 2010 doubled the previous amount of $900.

After that the agencies apply for federal grants organized through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement “to provide longerterm cash and medical assistance, as well as language and social services,” according to their website.

However, with the constant influx of new refugees into the area, most agencies are only able to support newcomers for the first three months. After that the refugees are on their own.

With the recent economic downturn, many refugees are unable to find jobs that quickly and have no way of supporting themselves once those three months are up.

To fill that void, many organizations in the Tucson area have been created to help refugees support themselves as well as provide resources such as English lessons or trips to the doctor.

You can read my classmate’s story on one of these organizations, the Iskashitaa Refugee Harvesting Network, on the Border Beat website.

Another organization, Noor Women’s Association, also helps to bridge that gap. Noor is able to assist 30 families at a time, which is merely a drop in the bucket because there has been “such a deluge of new people” in recent years, according to Noor’s founder, Sandy Qureshi.

Celebrating Multiculturalism in the Desert

Visitors walk from one location to another at Tucson Meet Yourself in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011.

Tucson has a thriving multicultural population, which the city celebrates every year at the Tucson Meet Yourself Festival.

With Tucson located so close to the Mexican-American border, it’s hardly surprising that Mexican traditions play such a vital part in the city’s culture. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that people from many different cultures from all over the world also call Tucson home.

A participant at Tucson Meet Yourself demonstrates Japanese origami to a festival visitor on Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011 in Tucson, Ariz.

There were food stands from cultures and locations as diverse as Afghanistan and Denmark (both which are close to my heart), with demonstrations of folk arts ranging from Japanese origami to Dine (Navajo) weaving along with performances of all kinds, including music, dance, and storytelling.

The festival’s stated mission is to “research, document, interpret and present the living traditional arts and expressions of everyday life of the folk and ethnic communities of the multi-national Arizona-Sonora region,” according to their website.

In total the festival brought together 110 separate events, with 170 artists featuring traditional crafts from across the globe and and 65 ethnic and occupational groups, according to their website.

Matilde V. Santa Cruz makes a Sonoran tortilla at Tucson Meet Yourself on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011.

This year I was fortunate enough to meet Matilde V. Santa Cruz, a 73-year-old woman originally from Imuris, Sonora, who learned how to make traditional Sonoran tortillas from her grandmother when she was a girl.

Santa Cruz passed on the tradition in turn by teaching her granddaughter, also named Matilde Santa Cruz, the art of Sonoran tortilla-making.

See more photos from the many traditions and cultures represented at the festival this weekend in the slideshow below.

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A Theater Community

As a result of my first special project for Border Beat, I recently discovered that there is a thriving, if small, theater community here in Tucson.

My project is on Borderlands Theater, which is a small theater dedicated to highlighting issues and voices from the U.S. — Mexico border region around Tucson.

However, while in the process of doing research for my story I realized that there are several other small theater companies operating in Tucson, as well as one or two larger ones. The performance of a Borderlands Theater show that I attended was held at the Temple of Music and Art, which is a lovely little theater complex in the Armory Park neighborhood just south of downtown Tucson.

The Temple of Music and Art is the home of the Tucson branch of the Arizona Theater Company, which according to its’ website is the “leading professional theatre in Arizona and the only resident company in the United States with a two-city operation.” Those two cities being, of course, Tucson and Phoenix.

The company has been in operation for 45 years and produces a varied repertoire of plays ranging from Shakespeare to Stoppard. The show being currently performed, “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club,” was commissioned by the company and has been well-received by audiences, if the review by the Tucson Weekly is anything to go by.

As soon as I walked down the street toward their Tucson location, I was immediately charmed by the beautiful old building which houses the theaters. According to the Arizona Theater Company website, their home is a “refurbished 1927 theatre, built in the Spanish Colonial style that flavors so much of our city,” which in my opinion provides a wonderfully charismatic home for a theater company. The iv-covered complex comes complete with a courtyard and fountain.

In addition to the large main Alice Holsclaw Theater and smaller Cabaret Theater upstairs, the Temple also has a small gallery and combination restaurant/bar/coffee shop, The Temple Lounge. The Temple Lounge is stuffed with old props from past productions and provides a cozy atmosphere for theater-goers to relax before a show. All of these extras serve to add to the character of the complex, as well as firmly rooting any visitor in Tucson’s history and culture.

The White Dove of the Desert

I’ve lived in Tucson for more than a year now, and until late last spring had done nothing but study! I never went anywhere, saw any sights, or played tourist in the least little way.

Finally, with the end of classes last May I was able to venture out of my little universe and actually see some of the fantastic world around me. Arizona has a lot to offer outdoor enthusiasts, especially hikers and bikers. I don’t do much of either, but I do love to visit cultural sights like museums and historical buildings.

Tucson is a fantastic place for a history nerd like me. I’d heard about the Old Pueblo’s historic vibe with all the old buildings and Spanish-style architecture, but once I actually moved here I never left the university area and didn’t really see much of the rest of the city.

According to the official Tucson City website, the Hohokam people were the first to settle here in 200 A.D., until 1450 A.D. Their descendants, the Pima and Tohono O’odham people still live in the area.

After that, the first official settlement came with the establishment of the Mission San Xavier del Bac.

The actual building dates back to 1797 but the mission was founded in 1692 by Father Eusebio Kine. It is located on the San Xavier Reservation, which is part of the reservation for the Tohono O’odham nation, located just south of Tucson. The mission is apparently considered to be the “finest example of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States,” according to the mission’s website.

Regardless, it’s a beautiful structure both inside and out, with an unusual and intriguing mix of Catholic, Spanish, and Tohono O’odham (Native American) influences.

The mission is known as “the white dove of the desert” and stands alone in the desert just southwest of Tucson. You can see it from the interstate, the shining white dome gleaming from far off in the desert.

As always, I brought my camera and took a ton of pictures. Enjoy!

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Desert, Waterfalls, and Rocks

I have to admit, waterfalls are something that I never thought I would find in the desert. I tend to associate waterfalls with jungles and other wet, rainy locales.

But as I found out this weekend, there really are waterfalls in the desert after all.

One of my friends invited me to go hiking with her and another friend to Tanque Verde Falls on Sunday. I was a little hesitant about it at first, because I’ve never actually been hiking before and I know I’m not in very good shape right now. After looking the hike up online, I decided to go for it since it wasn’t supposed to be a very long or very hard hike.

Boy was I wrong! My two friends had no trouble hiking up or down hills or clambering over all the rocks and boulders, while I trailed along behind them, cautiously picking my way along while huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf. That was not my definition of an easy hike!

See all those rocks? We had to climb over them!

I mostly managed to keep up, but the trip was much more difficult than I had expected. When my friend had told me it involved climbing over boulders, I assumed she was being hyperbolic and actually meant little stepping stones. It turns out that she was not exaggerating after all.

It was a good thing I was wearing sturdy hiking boots which helped me to keep my footing, but it didn’t take long for my leg muscles to start burning from the incessant climbing up and down.

To be completely fair, the hike wasn’t all hardship and heart attack. I actually found it rather fun to scramble over rocks like that. It reminded me of being a kid and playing on a jungle gym.

Once we finally got to the first of the two waterfalls my legs felt like jelly and I couldn’t make it up the big, slippery rock next to the waterfall, so I stayed behind while my friends went on the second one.

The first of the Tanque Verde Falls in Tucson, Ariz., on Sept. 18, 2011.

I was a little disappointed not to get to see the other, bigger waterfall, but staying behind gave me a chance to rest up for the trip back and also to take as many photos as I wanted. Then I found a nice spot in the shade where I could rest my feet in the water and settled in to relax to the sound of the rushing waterfall and wait for my friends to return.

Tanque Verde Falls is apparently a popular destination for visitors. A lot of people come there to swim, and many stop at the first waterfall. There were even several young children there, but those groups had stopped at the shallow pools at the front of the riverbed. Those pools are located before the big rocks, so they are much easier to get to with very little rock-climbing involved.

Graffiti left by previous visitors to Tanque Verde Falls.

Then there were several serious hikers who came by — a few with dogs who were rather reluctant to get in the water! Mostly, however, there seemed to be small groups of young people who came to Tanque Verde Falls primarily to go swimming and cliff diving up at the higher waterfall.

However, it must be pointed out that while Tanque Verde Falls are a popular destination and fun place to visit, they can also be quite dangerous. There were several signs posted at the beginning of the trail warning visitors about the hazards of this particular hike, such as slippery rocks and flash floods. From my experience, I think it’s safe to say that these dangers are not exaggerations. It would be incredibly easy to get seriously injured there by something as simple as slipping on a rock.

One of the warning signs at the start of the trail to Tanque Verde Falls in Tucson, Ariz., on Sept. 18. 2011.

As in many places in the desert, flash floods are also a danger at Tanque Verde Falls. In 1981 eight people were killed there during a flash flood when “a wall of water 15 feet high rushed down the canyon and over the 100 foot falls,” according to the website of the National Weather Service Forecast Office for Tucson.

That being said, with care and some obvious precautions being taken, such as going in a group and staying away when rain is expected, the Tanque Verde Falls can be a beautiful place to spend an afternoon. The falls are also a great place to cool off on a hot summer day in the Arizona desert.



Monsoon Surprise

You know, when you move to the desert, you figure, “It’s hot, it’s dry, there’s no water, I’ll never have to worry about floods or anything else water-related, right?”


I quickly found out just how wrong I was. I moved here last August, smack in the middle of Arizona’s monsoon season, which stretches from July through September.

Biking home in Tucson, Ariz., one night during a monsoon.

“Monsoon” comes from an Arabic word, “mausim,” which means “season,” according to the NOAA‘s  National Weather Service website for the Flagstaff, Ariz., office.

During Tucson’s monsoon season, the streets tend to flood every time it rains. Out in the desert flash floods can be a real danger after particularly heavy rainstorms. One recently even knocked out a section of the fence running along the U.S. – Mexico border, as my classmate Zohra reported here.

According to the University of Arizona‘s Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) program, monsoons provide half of the yearly rainfall for Arizona and New Mexico.

Data on yearly rainfall totals can be found on the website for the National Weather Service’s Tucson office here.

Rainstorms during the monsoon season “tend to be short and spotty, with intense, local storms drenching some neighborhoods but not others,” according to CLIMAS.

I’ve definitely noticed this particular quirk myself. I can leave campus, where it is perfectly dry and even slightly sunny, then drive to my apartment about ten minutes away, where rain is falling and bolts of lightning are lighting up the sky. Or vice versa.

The effects of the monsoons can be seen most conspicuously following one of the short but torrential downpours, when Tucson’s streets turn into either placid lakes or raging rivers, depending on their characteristics.

The street turned-raging-river that I nearly lost my flip-flop to while attempting to ford.

The last time this happened I lost a flip-flop trying to cross a downward-running street that had turned into a raging river. I made the mistake of underestimating the quickly-flowing current and kept my shoes on. As soon as I took a step in and lifted my foot to take the next step, the current ripped my flip-flop off my foot and I watched in chagrin as it sailed merrily down the street.

I had to chase that darn flip-flop for a block before managing to snag it just before it followed the current into the center of a busy intersection. Luckily for me, because those are my favorite flip-flops!

However, in spite of all that, monsoons can have their perks. After all, when else will you see a double rainbow in Arizona if not after a monsoon?

A double rainbow seen from a parking garage on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson, Ariz., in late August, 2011.

First Border Trip

For the past year I’ve lived less than 70 miles from the border with Mexico without even once venturing to the border, much less across it.

Me, Zohra, and Diana at the entrance sign to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on Sept. 4, 2011. Organ Pipe was created in 1937 to preserve a region of the Sonoran Desert landscape.

Until yesterday, that is. I went along with my classmate and fellow Borderbeater, Zohra, and Diana, another friend and J-school student, to the Lukeville, Ariz., point of entry at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to shoot pictures for Zohra’s story on the border fence.

This was my first venture both outside of Tucson as well as to an actual point of entry into Mexico. One of the most prominent things I noticed as we drove through the desert on the way to Organ Pipe was that the farther we got from Tucson, the more we noticed Border Patrol‘s ubiquitous presence.

As a result of Arizona’s large shared border with Mexico, it is no surprise that the border, or la frontera, has a huge influence on the entire southern region of the state. One of the most visible forms of this influence comes in the presence of Border Patrol. When I first moved here last year, I was astonished to find out that Border Patrol operated away from the actual border. I’d previously had no idea that there were checkpoints on roads forty, fifty miles away as well as constant patrols through the desert.

The harsh desert landscape within Organ Pipe National Monument.

On this trip, it wasn’t long until we encountered Border Patrol. Before we even came near the actual border it felt like we had already entered a foreign country. There were checkpoints to pass through, heavily armed agents patrolling the desert, and at least half the vehicles we saw on the road were Border Patrol vehicles. At one point on the trip we saw several figures walking along the road up ahead and wondered aloud as to who they might be — migrants who had crossed the border, hitchhikers, or even regular hikers. Then when we reached them and saw two men wearing olive green tactical gear, we realized all our guesses had been wrong: they were Border Patrol agents.

All this was before we had even reached the port of entry at Lukeville. Once there we had to talk our way through the checkpoint on the U.S. side to be allowed to walk along the fence to get pictures. We didn’t even cross into Mexico, but still had to go through Customs on the way back. The agents we talked to were friendly enough but extremely reticent about information. They didn’t answer any questions but kept referring us to the head office or disavowing knowledge. They said it was fine for us to take pictures of the fence but told us not to go very far because it was too dangerous, which they repeated several times without ever actually giving any good reasons as to why it was so dangerous.

The border fence as it runs northwest from the Lukeville, Ariz., point of entry.

When Zohra and I walked along the fence, we only got about twenty feet before an agent who had been parked farther down the road pulled out and drove down to check us out. He then proceeded to babysit us until we were finished taking pictures and had started back toward the gate. He also gave only the vaguest answers to any questions we asked.

One of the oddest things about the whole situation was when Diana and I first walked up to the checkpoint to inquire about the feasibility of taking pictures of the fence. Several agents came up to us as soon as we got near the station to see what we wanted. Once we started talking to them and they found out we were student journalists and obviously no threat, they relaxed physically but stayed very guarded verbally. It was the weirdest sensation, having this rather friendly chat with an agent holding a huge assault rifle across his chest.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve been surrounded by heavily armed men, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. When I was in Kabul last year, there were armed Afghan National Police everywhere we went, and when we were at Embassy Row for an event it seemed like there were extremely heavily armed mercenaries everywhere I looked. As a result I didn’t know where to look and kept staring at the ground the whole time we were there because I had this crazy fear that if I looked at any of them they would shoot me. Ridiculous, of course, but that’s how nervous they made me. I had the same feeling yesterday while talking to those agents at the point of entry.

This might be expected in Afghanistan, which is a war zone, but in the U.S.? It’s an odd feeling, to still be within your own country but in such a militarized, heavily monitored place that I was reminded of being in a war zone. As student journalists, it’s easy to be intimidated by an entity like Border Patrol. We need to be aware of what rights we have so as not to be so easily swayed into going along with what they say. For instance, we were told repeatedly that we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the agents themselves or any of their equipment. Sounds reasonable, right?

Maybe, maybe not. Zohra was later told by a Tucson police officer that that is not in fact the case. Individuals can refuse to be photographed but we are not barred from taking pictures of agents as a general rule. If that is correct, then we should have been aware of this before we went and pressed the issue if necessary.

This just reinforced the need for journalists, especially student journalists, to be aware of what they are allowed to do legally, and what they are not.

A photo of the U.S. checkpoint I quickly snapped as we were walking toward Customs. Notice there are no agents visible.