New York Times
By Jennifer Krauss
March 24, 2017
A lot has changed on the homeland security beat since Ron Nixon began covering it in 2015. Indeed, a lot has changed in the last two months.
From an inauguration speech about walls and carnage, to two immigration-related executive orders, to Tuesday’s ban of electronics larger than cellphones on flights from 10 Muslim-majority countries, there’s been no rest for Mr. Nixon, a Washington correspondent. In fact, he spends so much time at airports the Transportation Security Administration agents know him by name — before they check his I.D. But then again, he’s used to frequent traveling through terminals: Since joining The New York Times in 2005, he has also covered Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Where do you do most of your reporting?
I try to get out of Washington as much as I can to places where people are impacted by the policies created here. I’m spending more time in border towns and have made a couple trips to Mexico recently. I practically live at the airport. On average, it’s a week or two each month. In many places, the screeners know me by name. So does the lady who makes my coffee just the way I like it at Dunkin’ Donuts at Reagan National Airport in Washington.
How has your beat changed since President Trump took office?
Wow. It’s nearly impossible to describe all the changes. In my two years on the beat, I’ve written about all these topics — visa and border security, drugs and trafficking on the borders, corruption within Customs and Border Protection — that are now at the center of news coverage on an almost daily basis. In addition to my own reporting, I have also had to serve as a resource for other reporters on a variety of issues from sources to the difference between customs officers and Border Patrol agents.
So what is the difference?
Customs officers work at ports of entry at the borders, at airports receiving international passengers and cargo, and at seaports. They’re responsible for enforcing immigration and trade laws and inspecting agriculture products. Border Patrol agents patrol the areas between the ports of entry. They’re responsible for enforcing immigration laws and stopping security threats from drug cartels, smugglers and other criminal organizations at and near the border.
How has your daily routine changed — do you get less sleep, for instance?
What is sleep? Since President Trump signed the executive order on building a border wall through the original travel ban (or “travel pause,” according to the administration) it has been nonstop. From about 6 a.m. in the morning through 1 a.m. some days, I’m calling sources, writing short items for our daily briefing and working with other reporters on stories related to the travel ban.
How do you think passengers will deal with the latest device ban, forcing them to fly long hours without the use of laptops or tablets?
I suspect there will be a huge backlash against the electronics ban. Some of these flights are 20 or more hours — that’s a long time to sit with just a cellphone and in-flight entertainment. Plus, most people are on business trips, so they use this time to work on presentations, proposals, speeches, etc. There will be tremendous pushback.
What’s the strangest thing about this beat since Trump took office?
I’d have to say, from my perspective, it’s the administration’s claim that the rollout for the first travel ban went smoothly. And their insistence that there was no chaos. There was confusion about whom to let on planes. Green card holders who have been living and working in the U.S. for years were detained and denied entry back into the country. Thousands of people suddenly had their lawful visas canceled.
Does one recent reporting trip stand out?
I recently traveled to Lukeville, Ariz., to report on a joint federal-state operation targeting drug smugglers. I got to watch as customs officers pulled over a truck driven by a young Mexican woman. They suspected that she might be smuggling drugs, and a drug-sniffing dog indicated that she was. When they searched the vehicle, they found drugs in the doors, the gas tank, even in the engine. I’ve never seen anything like it.
This article contains some details from a previous Times Insider article, found here.
A version of this article appears in print on March 23, 2017, on Page A2 of the New York edition with the headline: ‘What Is Sleep?’ on the Borders Beat.
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