Travel Ban 3.0: What You Need to Know
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to allow portions of President Trump’s travel ban, otherwise known as the “Muslim Ban,” to go into effect.
The original Muslim ban, passed on January 27, sparked massive protests across the world and faced numerous legal challenges. President Trump then revoked this executive order and issued a revised version on March 16. This executive order continued to be blocked by federal courts, which viewed it as religious discrimination.
Now, the Supreme Court, which is the highest federal court in the US, has decided to leave parts of the Muslim ban in place until the justices hear arguments later this fall. As of Thursday, June 29, travelers from six Muslim-majority countries (Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen) are no longer allowed to enter the US for the next 90 days unless they can prove a “bona fide relationship” (close relative) in the US. Parents, spouses, siblings, and children count as close relatives, but grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins do not. Some travelers with certain business ties will be allowed entry, as well as travelers who already have a valid visa.
All refugees are also being denied entry into the US for 120 days if they do not have a “bona fide relationship” with a person or entity in the US.
The Trump administration is claiming this as a victory for America’s national security, as the policy allegedly will protect the US from terrorists. However, in reality, it holds Muslims from those six countries and all refugees collectively responsible for the actions of a few. The administration is playing right into ISIS’ narrative that Muslims are at war with the West and that Muslim values are anti-American.
On the contrary, the vast majority of Muslims in the West live peacefully, enjoy their rights and freedoms, and want nothing to do with terror groups.
The travel ban is based on fear, not facts. All 19 people who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks, which were used as basis for the ban, entered the United States legally on temporary visas. They were not refugees and they were not from any of the six countries currently banned. In addition, not a single person from the six banned countries killed a single American in a terrorist attack in the US since at least 1975, according to a Cato Institute study. Finally, the chance of being killed in a terror attack by a refugee, someone fleeing violence and persecution, is one in 3.6 billion.
Many believe the Trump administration’s actions are rooted deeply in xenophobia and Islamophobia and deliver on Trump’s campaign promise of a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
The requirement for a “bona fide relationship” is arbitrary, confusing, and severely harmful for refugees, many of whom don’t know anyone in the U.S. This is heartbreaking, as they are the very people who need entry the most. Refugees are fleeing a war in Yemen, the brutality of ISIS in Syria, famines, and unthinkable oppression; they are terminally ill patients who need urgent medical care. They are human beings. A 120 day ban puts them at risk for not being able to enter the country before their security clearances expire and having to begin the resettlement process all over again, which could take years.
There is also the risk that the Muslim travel ban will open the door to other policies that are rooted in religious intolerance and discrimination.
As American Muslims, we are tired of constantly being the scapegoats. We do not understand why or how we’ve come to live in a time when the president of the United States has the audacity to ban innocent people based on their religion and get away with it. It is infuriating and heartbreaking. Our communities are being torn apart, families are being separated, and those who live in the six banned countries are unable to reunite with their loved ones here in the US. We are dealing with the unprecedented normalization of discrimination in America but we will continue to keep our heads up and resist.
With all of the uncertainty around the ban, we’ve prepared a list of frequently asked questions that may help. If you’re traveling to the US, be sure to exercise caution and do your research. (Sources: ProPublica, HuffPost, and NBC)
How long will this travel ban last?
Right now, the ban limits travel for 90 days from the six Muslim-majority countries and suspends the nation’s refugee program for 120 days. But the Trump administration can lengthen these time periods.
What if I already have a visa?
Visas that have already been approved should not be revoked.
What if I’m coming as a tourist from one of these six countries and don’t have close family in the US?
If you don’t already have a visa and don’t have family in the US that meets the “bona fide relationship” criteria, you will not be allowed to enter. According to the Trump administration, “close family” is defined as a parent (including parent-in-law), spouse, fiancé, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling, whether whole or half. This includes step relationships. “Close family” does not include grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-laws and sisters-in-law, and any other “extended” family members.
What if I’m coming as a tourist but am not from one of the six banned countries?
It is our expectation that all Muslims or people who appear to be Muslim may face discriminatory questions at the border. Even American citizens may be detained.
Muhammad Ali Jr., the son of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, was detained twice after the first Muslim Ban was introduced. He is not from those six designated Muslim countries that are part of the ban — but he is a Muslim. Even his mother, Muhammad Ali’s former wife, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, had to produce photos with Muhammad Ali for her to be released.
How broad is Customs and Border Protection’s search authority?
According to federal statutes, regulations and court decisions, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have the authority to inspect, without a warrant, any person trying to gain entry into the country and their belongings. CBP can also question individuals about their citizenship or immigration status and ask for documents that prove admissibility into the country.
Does CBP’s search authority cover electronic devices like smartphones and laptops?
Yes. CBP refers to several statutes and regulations in justifying its authority to examine “computers, disks, drives, tapes, mobile phones and other communication devices, cameras, music and other media players, and any other electronic or digital devices.”
With a supervisor’s sign-off, CBP officers can also seize an electronic device — or a copy of the information on the device — “for a brief, reasonable period of time to perform a thorough border search.” Such seizures typically shouldn’t exceed five days, although officers can apply for extensions in up to one-week increments, according to CBP policy. If a review of the device and its contents does not turn up probable cause for seizing it, CBP says it will destroy the copied information and return the device to its owner.
Am I legally required to disclose the password for my electronic device or social media, if CBP asks for it?
That’s still an unsettled question, according to Liza Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “Until it becomes clear that it’s illegal to do that, they’re going to continue to ask,” she said.
Travelers who refuse to give up passwords could also be detained for longer periods and have their bags searched more intrusively. Foreign visitors could be turned away at the border, and green card holders could be questioned and challenged about their continued legal status.
What if I refuse to hand over my smartphone to be searched?
“Asserting your rights at the border is risky,” said Margo Schlanger, who used to run Homeland Security’s Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Division.
If you’re not a citizen, CBP can block you from coming into the country for years. And that won’t necessarily stop agents from searching the phone anyway.
If you are American, refusing the search can lead to a legal gray area. CBP agents have the right to search your phone, but their code of conduct says they may not physically force you to hand over your phone. If you refuse a search, they can keep you at the border for hours, but eventually they have to let you in.
How can I protect my digital information?
Consider which devices you absolutely need to travel with, and which ones you can leave at home. Setting a strong password and encrypting your devices are helpful in protecting your data, but you may still lose access to your devices for undefined periods should border officials decide to seize and examine their contents.
Another option is to leave all of your devices behind and carry a travel-only phone free of most personal information. However, even this approach carries risks. “We also flag the reality that if you go to extreme measures to protect your data at the border, that itself may raise suspicion with border agents,” according to Sophia Cope, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). “It’s so hard to tell what a single border agent is going to do.”
The EFF has released an updated guide to data protection options here.
Can I record my interaction with CBP officials?
Individuals on public land are allowed to record and photograph CBP operations so long as their actions do not hinder traffic, according to CBP. However, the agency prohibits recording and photography in locations with special security and privacy concerns, including some parts of international airports and other secure port areas.
Does CBP’s power to stop and question people extend beyond the border and ports of entry?
Yes. Federal statutes and regulations empower CBP to conduct warrantless searches for people travelling illegally from another country in any “railway car, aircraft, conveyance, or vehicle” within 100 air miles from “any external boundary” of the country. About two-thirds of the U.S. population live in this zone, including the residents of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Houston, according to the ACLU.
As a result, CBP currently operates 35 checkpoints, where they can stop and question motorists traveling in the U.S. about their immigration status and make “quick observations of what is in plain view” in the vehicle without a warrant, according to the agency. Even at a checkpoint, however, border officials cannot search a vehicle’s contents or its occupants unless they have probable cause of wrongdoing, the agency says. Failing that, CBP officials can ask motorists to allow them to conduct a search, but travelers are not obligated to give consent.