The ACLU of Colorado has filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act to find out how Customs and Border Protection officers are interpreting and implementing President Donald Trump’s executive order banning refugees and citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.
This is part of a coordinated campaign from 49 affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union and involves requests to the headquarters of Customs and Border Patrol and 18 field offices. Those field offices in turn have jurisdiction over 55 international airports, including Denver International Airport.
The day the order went into effect, there was widespread chaos and confusion at airports around the world, and people with permission to enter the United States were detained and even put back on planes to other countries. This even happened to some green card holders — people with permanent legal resident status — though the administration later decided that the order would not apply to these people after first saying that it did.
“President Trump’s unconstitutional and un-American immigration ban has created chaos, confusion, and hardship across the country, and there are unanswered questions about how it is being implemented and whether court-issued stays on detention and deportation are being followed,” ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein said in a press release announcing the FOIA filing. “The public has a right to know what guidance the agents are receiving and where exactly it is coming from.”
As the ACLU and immigration attorneys went to court to block the deportation of people held under the order, there were reports of CBP officers refusing to comply or even read the order and of people being deported in violation of court orders.
In Denver, a Syrian woman traveling with her infant and an Iranian couple returning to the United States were both allowed through immigration. There haven’t been any other reports of people being detained here, but no one can say for sure that didn’t happen.
“That is one of the things that we are trying to determine,” Silverstein said in an interview. “The lawyers who were at the airport had imperfect information and did not have access to anyone who was being held.”
- Records created on or after January 27, 2017, concerning CBP’s interpretation, enforcement, and implementation of the following at Local International Airports;
- Any guidance “provided to DHS field personnel shortly” after President Trump signed the Executive Order, as referenced in CBP’s online FAQ;
- Associate Director of Field Operations for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Daniel M. Renaud’s email, sent at 11:12 a.m. on January 27, 2017, instructing DHS employees that they could not adjudicate any immigration claims from the seven targeted countries;
- And records concerning the number of individuals who were detained or subjected to secondary screening, extending questioning, an enforcement examination, or consideration for a waiver at Local International Airports pursuant to the Executive Order.
That last request includes the total number of people who remain detained or subject to secondary screening and extended questioning, the total who were detained or subject to additional screening, the number released, the number sent to immigration detention and those who have been removed from the United States.
The ACLU also wants to know how many people with valid visas or green cards voluntarily agreed to leave the country, perhaps under duress or coercion.
Silverstein said Customs and Border Patrol has been resistant to turning over documents in other cases in which the ACLU is involved. However, an element of another executive order signed by Trump — the order targeting so-called sanctuary cities and ordering the publications of lists of crimes committed by immigrants — removes any privacy protections from people who are not citizens or legal permanent residents. Silverstein said that means there shouldn’t be any justification for not providing the names of those affected by the order restricting entry to the United States by refugees and citizens of the affected countries.