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American Citizens Beware: If You Are Returning Home from Abroad, The Trump Administration May Just Detain You

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Reports: Americans Singled out by CBP for Illegal Detention at Border

At points of entry in Washington state and possibly in other parts of the country, U.S. citizens who are of Iranian descent are being unlawfully detained by the Trump administration’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP). 

While a Sunday afternoon tweet from CBP attempted a carefully-worded denial, stating that “Social media posts that CBP is detaining Iranian-Americans and refusing their entry into the U.S. because of their country of origin are false. Reports that DHS/CBP has issued a related directive are also false,” a close read of their phrasing coupled with the details of the reports make clear that this unlawful profiling and detention is very real and very disturbing. 

As leading immigration attorney David Leopold observed and subsequently replied: “This @CBP tweet is deceptive. US citizens may NOT be denied entry to the US. Nor must they answer Qs abt family, military etc. Must only answer Qs establishing identity & citizenship (& customs Qs) when returning fr abroad. Does CBP agree that USCs in secondary r free to leave?” 

Secondary inspection is more detailed questioning by CBP inspecting officers of a person arriving at a U.S. port of entry and, as such, is a detention. But, as Leopold points out, once a U.S. citizen has established her identity, citizenship and addressed any customs related issues, CBP may not refuse her entry into the U.S.  Moreover, CBP is constitutionally prohibited from requiring a U.S. citizen to answer about their religion, race, national origin, gender, ethnicity, or political beliefs.   

 According to Pili Tobar, Deputy Director of America’s Voice: 

Beware of false reassurances from this administration, CBP and any agency related to immigration. They have a demonstrable record of lying. The Trump administration is defined by its xenophobia, racial biases, and track record of violating norms, laws, and morality in its treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers. They are now violating the basic rights of U.S. citizens. And the same CBP that operates with impunity and has been caught in a series of disturbing lies and coverups has lost any benefit of the doubt about its behaviors or justifications. 

We can’t let this treatment of our fellow citizens be normalized or viewed as an expected byproduct of Trump’s decision to bang the war drums with Iran – it’s unacceptable and outrageous and not who we are as a country. The slippery slope is getting a lot more slippery.