You Have a Right to Know How Trump’s Muslim Ban Was Implemented. So We Sued.

Extensive questions surround the chaos that erupted nationwide in response to President Trump’s first “Muslim ban.” Because the government has refused to hand over information that would allow the public to evaluate how the ban was implemented, ACLU affiliates have filed dozens of lawsuits around the country to demand details.

On January 27, President Trump signed Executive Order 13769, indefinitely blocking refugees from Syria from entering the United States, barring all refugees from resettlement for 120 days, and prohibiting nationals of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days.

Chaos immediately erupted at airports, courtrooms, and political offices around the country. Dozens of refugees and travelers were detained with little to no explanation, denied access to lawyers, and in some cases put on return flights back to harm’s way.

As this crisis unfolded, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security issued contradictory statements, fueling mass confusion. The agencies claim that they, too, were left in the dark by the Trump administration. Reports confirmed that DHS Secretary John Kelly hadn’t even seen the final version of the Muslim ban until after the executive order was signed.

DHS’s attempts to clarify the terms of the ban nationally only perpetuated the confusion. On Saturday, January 28, DHS declared that green card holders were subject to the ban; by Sunday, January 29, government officials had “clarified” that the Executive Order did not apply to green card holders. Unsurprisingly, CBP’s local implementation of the Muslim ban in different international airports varied widely: While some agents aggressively tried to strip travelers of green cards, others hesitated, unsure which travelers were to be permitted entry and which were to be refused.

Perhaps most troubling, CBP officers apparently ignored the express terms of several federal court orders blocking certain parts of the Muslim ban. At Dulles airport, for example, Democratic members of the House of Representatives had to demand that refugee detainees subject to Trump’s ban be released. Similarly, when refugee advocates at JFK airport asked why the court orders that blocked the ban from taking place weren’t being enforced, some CBP officers replied: “Call Donald Trump.”

This confusion had serious human impacts. In Texas, a 33-year old Iraqi man in a wheelchair was detained for 15 hours after traveling to Dallas Fort Worth airport on a Special Immigrant Visa that was awarded to him because of his work with the U.S. Army. In Virginia, Yemeni individuals flying to Dulles when the first executive order took effect had their visas revoked upon landing and were required to fly back to Ethiopia. In New York, two doctors from Cleveland were subjected to extensive delays, detention, and distress at JFK airport after returning from vacation in Iran.

To clarify the public’s understanding of these urgent developments, 50 ACLU affiliates filed Freedom of Information Act requests on February 2. Yet more than two months later, neither DHS nor CBP has provided us with any information about their local implementation of the executive order.

FOIA’s purpose is to ensure that people have timely access to crucial government information. The public has a right to know how CBP officers have implemented the Muslim ban locally. We deserve to have access to that information now.

Dozens of ACLU affiliates across the country filed coordinated lawsuits yesterday demanding responses to our FOIA requests. Each lawsuit seeks unique, local information from CBP field offices, to clarify the public’s understanding of how CBP officers in each jurisdiction implemented the Muslim ban in the face of rapidly evolving and sometimes conflicting national guidance.

Democracy withers without government accountability, and accountability requires transparency. The government has a duty to keep the American people informed. This is particularly true for agencies like CBP, which have terrible transparency track records and feel empowered to upend the lives of immigrants and refugees with impunity. Stay tuned.

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Pat Duran

The ACLU is pretty much the only thing standing between our maintaining a free society and devolving into a police state. Thank you ACLU!!

edrebber

Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.

Anonymous

First they came for the Immigrants , then the Muslims then the peaceful protesters and so on . By the time they pulled their head from where the sun don't shine there was no one left .

Jack North

Minneapolis' West Bank, once dubbed "Minneapolis' answer to Haight-Ashbury," has now become "Little Somalia." As a socialized, young gay American, I find this new West Bank a travesty. What was once a thriving and colorful quarter for arts, multiculturalism and protest has now become a homogenous Mecca for Muslim fundamentalists. Also, they are loud and get in car accidents a lot, have tons of kids and, inshah-Allah, don't assimilate. Wake up people: it's complicated!

The Free American

Come on now homeboy. "..have tons of children...and get in car accidents...".. don't be a hater. I agree with you that assimilation into American society is an important aspect of any immigrants life. We as a people have a constitution that guarantees certain rights, including religion. However, religious freedom DOES NOT give any sect or belief to impose its culture, values, or "laws" on another human citizen of the United States. This includes gays, transsexuals, heterosexuals or any other sexual belief. If you or anyone is a victim of discrimination please report it. It's not just Muslims that "hate" gays; Jews, Christians and even some Asian sects believe gay humans are a travesty. But GOD, the mighty Allah does not and will never hate any of its creations in any form. We are all a manifestation of the same being, created in peace and love.

Ask it, God actually HATES any organized religion that teaches differences between human beings deserve that leads to murder of humans.

Anonymous

And God said, "everything you do pleases me because you are me...". I was told this in prayer.

So I eat what I want during Ramadan, Passover, and Lent. I worship the creator in every peaceful action I take. Jesus, Muhammad, Moses, Abraham and all other human prophets are equal in my eyes as humans who attempted to "help" others find God.

I have found God; He/she/it loves me and I love it. I am thankful for my creation and will take no willful action to end creation. I love ALL of gods creations and seek peace for all on the planet. I even love the "devil" because he reminds me of the goodness, peace and love I must radiate into the world.

Jill Mertinke

I am 67 yrs old....so, I've seen a lot happen in America already. Never in all these years have I felt so scared of America turning into a police state. I feel like we're in a bad dream. Why is congress allowing such degradation and insult to democracy to go unchecked? There's got to be an evil vein controlling the executive and legislative branch with GOP in charge now. In the guise of Christian values, Republicans have slapped America in her face.

edrebber

Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.

edrebber

Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.

Anonymous

Aka, a dictatorship run by a rich pro-corporation oligarc.

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