Tuesday, 28 March 2017
Their skin colour is not fair, they have a 'foreign' name - what could possibly go wrong for these travellers during the Trump Regime?
Details of my CBP Detention at JFK Int. Airport:
After spending a lovely weekend in Paris celebrating my mom’s 80th birthday, I happily boarded my flight to return to the United States-something I have done countless times for 42 years after becoming a U.S. citizen. I had an enjoyable flight to New York’s JFK International Airport. On all of my prior trips, I was greeted by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers with a warm smile and the usual, “Welcome home sir”. Not this time. I approached CBP Officer Chow who didn’t say anything when I handed him my passport and looked at me with a gruff expression and simply stated, “are you traveling alone?”, I knew this was a sign of trouble, I answered “yes”, he then said, “Let’s take a walk”.
I was taken to a back office which looked to be a re-purposed storage facility with three desks and signs stating, “Remain seated at all times” and “Use of telephones strictly prohibited” - my first sign that this was not a voluntary situation and, in fact, a detention. By this point I had informed CBP Officer Chow, the one that initially detained me, that I was a retired police chief and a career police officer AND a US citizen-he stated that he had no control over the circumstance and that it didn’t matter what my occupation was. He handed my passport off to another CBP officer who was working at one of the desks. The second CBP officer was indeed kind and appreciated the fact that I was a career police officer and tried to be helpful. He explained that my name was used as an alias by someone on some watch list. He stated that he sent my information to another agency to de-conflict and clear me, so that I could gain passage into the United States….my own country!!!
As I sat in the CBP detention center, numerous, at least 25, foreign nationals were also brought in and quickly released, their detentions were reasonable and appropriate, maybe 5 or so minutes while their passports were checked. I pointed out the irony of this fact to the CBP officer that was attempting to “clear me for entry”. I told him, as he avoided eye contact, how wrong this scenario was that the only US citizen, career US police officer and chief of police, out of the group of detainees, was the one with the longest unreasonable detention- I was held for an hour and a half. I asked several times, “how long of a detention do you consider to be reasonable?”, the answer I was given by CBP Officer Chow was that I was not being detained-he said that with a straight face. I then replied, “But I’m not free to leave-how is that not a detention?” I was in a room with no access to my mobile phone to communicate with my wife and family about what was happening, my movements were restricted to a chair and they had my passport………and he had the audacity to tell me I was not being detained. His ignorance of the law and the Fourth Amendment should disqualify him from being able to wear a CBP badge - but maybe fear and detention is the new mission of the CBP and the Constitution is a mere suggestion. I certainly was not free to leave. As former law enforcement, believe me, I agree that if certain criteria is met, a reasonable investigative detention is not inappropriate-the key here being “reasonable”.
As I continued to sit in the CBP makeshift Detention Center, watching numerous foreign nationals enter my country while I couldn’t, I began thinking about my numerous trips abroad -including five in the past year (all prior to inauguration) - with no problems upon my return and complete with the warm greeting of “Welcome home”.
Fortunately, a CBP officer that had just started her shift took interest in my situation and began to inquire with the “other agency” that was reviewing my information-she aggressively asked them for status updates and eventually called me over to tell me that I was cleared to enter the United States of America. I promptly thanked her and filled her in on how impactful this situation was-she apologized and I was on my way after an hour and a half detention.
I spent nearly 30 years serving the public in law enforcement. Since I retired as the Chief of Police in Greenville, NC, I founded a successful consulting firm that is involved in virtually every aspect of police and criminal justice reform. I interface with high level U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Court officials almost daily. Prior to this administration, I frequently attended meetings at the White House and advised on national police policy reforms-all that to say that If this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone with attributes that can be “profiled”. No one is safe from this type of unlawful government intrusion.
As I left the CBP makeshift detention center, I had to go back through security to catch my next flight back to DC, ironically, due to my weekly air travel, I have TSA Pre-check and was whisked through security without a hitch and made my flight by minutes.
This experience has left me feeling vulnerable and unsure of the future of a country that was once great and that I proudly called my own. This experience makes me question if this is indeed home. My freedoms were restricted, and I cannot be sure it won’t happen again, and that it won’t happen to my family, my children, the next time we travel abroad. This country now feels cold, unwelcoming, and in the beginning stages of a country that is isolating itself from the rest of the world - and its own people - in an unprecedented fashion. High levels of hate and injustice have been felt in vulnerable communities for decades-it is now hitting the rest of America.
I have contacted my US senators, and my contacts at the NYT and other media sources to continue to tell the story of what is happening in the United States of America.
Jamaica Observer, 20 March 2017:
HOUSTON, Texas — A Jamaican woman was whisked back to the island and her visa revoked after she arrived at the William P Hobby Airport in Houston, Texas, on Wednesday night.
The woman’s family sought answers from United States media outlet KHOU 11 News, which aired their story.
Veronica Gaubault, who was sent back to Jamaica, told the Houston media that US Customs and Border Protection revoked her visa after agents inspected (CBP) her iPhone, iPad and other belongings.
Her cousin, paediatrician Kareen Smith, said she waited for approximately four hours before customs agents told her that Gaubault would not be allowed to enter the country.
“[They] just decided they were not going to let her in,” she told KHOU 11 News.
“It is important to note that issuance of a visa or a visa waiver does not guarantee entry,” a statement from the US Customs and Border Protection said, adding that “a CBP officer at the port of entry will conduct an inspection to determine if the individual is eligible for admission into the US”.
When asked why the woman’s belongings were searched, they said it was for “administrative causes”, KHOU 11 News reported.
Smith said text conversations between her and Gaubault were also scrutinised.
“She visits me, she visits other family we have in New York or Florida, and she goes home,” Smith said. “She never overstays her time. She always honours her visa and, for some reason, this is the first time she’s been denied.”
The Huffington Post, 7 March 2017:
A Muslim Canadian woman says she was turned away at the United States border after a lengthy interrogation on her religion and thoughts on President Donald Trump.
"I felt humiliated, treated as if I was less than nothing,” Fadwa Alaoui told CBC News on Wednesday.
Alaoui was travelling to Burlington, Vt. to do some shopping with her cousin and two children. The Canadian citizen was born in Morocco and has been in Quebec for 20 years, according to La Presse…..
Border agents took Alaoui and her cousin’s cellphones and asked for the passwords. She was asked questions almost exclusively about her Islamic practice, as well as whether she knew any victims killed in the deadly shooting spree at a Quebec City mosque…..
When border agents asked what she thought of Trump, Alaoui said she responded that he can do what he wants in his own country.
The group was fingerprinted and sent on their way after four hours.
The Star, 6 March 2017:
MONTREAL— A Montrealer who is a Canadian citizen by birth says she was barred from entering the United States and told to get a valid visa if she ever wants to cross the border.
Manpreet Kooner said she was turned away at a crossing along the Quebec-Vermont border on Sunday after a six-hour wait where she was fingerprinted, photographed and questioned before being refused.
She said she was told she was an immigrant without a valid U.S. visa.
Kooner, 30, is of Indian descent and was born in Montreal to parents who came to Canada from India in the 1960s and have lived in the same LaSalle district duplex for decades.
There have been several reports of Canadians encountering issues at the U.S. border, including a Canadian Muslim woman from Quebec who believes she was denied entry because of her religion.
Kooner said she’s perplexed given she was travelling on a Canadian passport and has no criminal record.
The only issue she had was a computer glitch that prevented her from crossing into New York state for 24 hours in December.
Kooner didn’t think much of that snafu until Sunday when she was stopped at Highgate Springs as she was travelling with two white girlfriends.
Her friends were not questioned but she was asked about the December incident.
“At the end of it, they told me I was not allowed going in and that I would need a visa if I ever went in the States again,” Kooner said.
Kooner claims the border agent told her, “I know you might feel like you’re being Trumped,” in reference to U.S. President Donald Trump — a statement she found odd.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman said Monday the department can’t comment on individual admissibility inspections, but noted that possession of a valid travel document does not guarantee entry to the United States.
Asked how she feels, Kooner said, “Just so bad, I feel like I’ve done something wrong, like I’m a criminal or something, but I’m not.”
Kooner went to the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, as suggested at the border, and was told the situation was “odd” and that a visa isn’t necessary for Canadians.
“Maybe there is no valid reason, maybe this is something that I can’t shake because I’m born like this,” Kooner said of her skin colour.
Her travel plans are up in the air: Kooner is supposed to go to a U.S. music festival at the end of March and her bachelorette in Miami in May.
“I’ve never had issues before, that’s the part that kills me,” Kooner said. “Now I’m just debating whether I should cancel.”
Artnet, 1 March 2017:
Juan Garcia Mosqueda, owner of the Chelsea design gallery Chamber NYC, was inexplicably denied entry to the US on Friday after a trip to his native Argentina, according to an open letter he titled “The Visible Wall” and shared with friends and colleagues yesterday.
Mosqueda, who was sent back to Argentina, explains the “dehumanizing and degrading” experience he was subjected to at the border, including being questioned under oath, denied legal counsel, held without food for 14 hours, prohibited from using any means of communication, and denied privacy when using the bathroom.
His belongings—which he could not access while kept in holding—were searched, and his legal documents were kept from him until he arrived back in Buenos Aires. He was escorted onto the plane by armed officers.
“This thirty-six hour nightmare is nothing but clear evidence of a deeply flawed immigration system in the United States, carried out by an administration that is more interested in expelling people than admitting them,“ he writes.
The curator and gallerist explains he has been a legal resident of the US for ten years, as a student, employee, and proprietor.
“Although I am not an American citizen, Chamber is an American product that I hope adds to the cultural landscape of the country,” he writes….
This is just one of many cases of non-US citizens, even with proper visas or green cards, being turned away at the US border under Trump’s travel restrictions, which came in the form of an executive order in January, and were subsequently blocked by a federal judge in Washington state.
Mosqueda’s case, however, is, on the surface, particularly baffling. Under the initial order, travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries—Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen—were banned from entering the US. A revised version, set to be introduced this week, bans travelers from all the aforementioned except Iraq, as well as the temporary suspension of all foreign refugees. Legal residents of the US should not be barred under the order.