Journalists Start Using Drones to View Immigrant Detention Camps After Government Blocks Entry

A bird’s eye view of one immigrant “tent city” taken by journalists who are denied access to the facility
Gif: BBC

Reporters are regularly being denied access to America’s concentration camps along the U.S.-Mexico border. And on the rare occasion when they’re allowed in, journalists aren’t permitted to take photos or record video. But some reporters are taking a new approach to the Trump regime’s obstruction. They’re using drones in an effort to show the world what’s happening.


Some journalists have started using drones fitted with video cameras to see the “tent cities” that are being constructed to house children in places like Texas. The BBC shot video like this yesterday, giving a bird’s eye view of just some of the children who are in internment camps for what the government calls unaccompanied minors. Unfortunately, under the Trump regime’s “zero-tolerance” policy, even kids who came across the U.S.-Mexico border with their parents or guardians are classified as unaccompanied minors after they’re separated by the government.

President Trump signed an executive order this week supposedly reversing his own policy of separating children from their parents, but the U.S. Justice Department filed a motion yesterday that will likely mean families will still be imprisoned indefinitely for the misdemeanor of crossing the border without authorization.

Reporters have been given incredibly limited access to the over 100 detention facilities currently operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security. But even America’s elected representatives have been denied access. Members of Congress are being told that they must give two weeks’ notice if they want to see inside one of America’s concentration camps, raising questions about what’s actually happening inside.

We know, for instance, that many of these for-profit facilities force adults to perform labor for slave wages and have done so for years. But without an unrestricted look at the children’s facilities we really have no idea what’s going on. All we have are secondhand reports of abuse, neglect, and despair.

Another video from the BBC shows a wider angle view on the camp in Tornillo, Texas. One thing that’s still tough to verify from the drone videos? The presence of guns. The propaganda photos and video released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection have shown agents with empty holsters.


So what does the future hold for people being held without charge in the United States? Hopefully some of the children who’ve been taken from their parents will be reunited, as we’re seeing some of that already taking place. But Trump’s executive order was a farce, and the U.S. military is being told to prepare to house tens of thousands of people on its bases. And to top it all off, Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of Homeland Security, has repeatedly lied about what the Trump regime is doing, according to Democratic congress members.


“Secretary Nielsen privately told lawmakers the Administration may go back to separating children from their parents,” California Congressman Adam Schiff tweeted yesterday. “Congress must ensure that NEVER happens. I’m urging the House Appropriations Committee to prevent funds from ever being used to separate families entering the US.”

For now, journalists must continue to demand that they be given access to the facilities where thousands of asylum seekers are being held. Because the Trump regime knows that images have a tremendous impact on public opinion. Which means they’ll continue to restrict access to these facilities. And reporters will continue to use workarounds wherever they can, including with drones.


Matt Novak is a senior writer at Gizmodo and founder of He's writing a book about the movies U.S. presidents watched at the White House, Camp David, and on Air Force One.



This is done on purpose as a deterrant. The increased press converge is intended to reach Mexico. This is excactly what they wanted to happen. This is completely playing to the base.

If they aren’t felons, don’t they all get ferried back to Mexico as a family?

The courts ruled that the kids couldn’t be put into the same place as the felon parents? So the orangutan says they have to split them up, then he signs an order ignoring the court ruling and they can stay together, but now we have children in jail?

What is the solution here? Put everyone that shows up on a barge and ship them South?

What is the solution that doesn’t involve releasing undocumented immigrants on US soil?  There has to be one.