by Bill Hess
DOUGLAS – While members of different Arizona media outlets were inside the gates of the U.S. Border Patrol’s Douglas Station, a newspaper owner, editor and reporter was denied access to a press conference with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
Chris Simcox, who owns, edits, and writes for the Tombstone Tumbleweed, said he was told Border Patrol Tucson Sector Chief Michael Nicley said he could not attend the press conference Thursday.
Calls for comments from the Tucson Sector public affairs office were not returned.
Simcox said he was told to call Nicley for the reason he was denied access, but the chief had not returned his calls on Thursday afternoon.
“I showed up with credentials and was held outside the gate,” Simcox said, adding it was then he learned from a Border Patrol agent that Nicley refused him access to the press conference.
Simcox is considering seeking advice from an attorney and even the American Civil Liberties Union because he believes his First Amendment rights as a member of the press were denied.
Before the press conference, he received notice of it like other members of the media. Simcox said he sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security saying he was going to attend. No one from the department’s public affairs office called saying he would be barred, he added.
Simcox said he believes Nicley refused him admittance because of his connection with the Minuteman Project, which involved volunteers watching the border in Cochise County throughout April. Simcox was co-organizer of the event with Californian Jim Gilchrist.
The Border Patrol felt the project was unnecessary.
If he was banned because of the Minuteman Project connection, Simcox said that is unfair because he had a right to attend the press conference and report on Chertoff’s visit.