Ryan Devereaux writes about the chaos and confusion and suffering wreaked by Donald Trump’s actions that seem to have been done without consulting the agencies that would be tasked with implementing the policies and might have been able to warn him about the dangers of issuing poorly thought out and likely unconstitutional actions.
Refugee and immigrant advocates were not the only ones scrambling to cope with the impact of the order — immigration officials tasked with enforcing it were also at a loss. On Saturday, reports emerged that the Trump administration denied the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice input on the drafting of the order, and that even among career immigration and State Department officials “Nobody has any idea what is going on,” NBC News reported.
A State Department official confirmed this account to The Intercept. “De facto, we were not consulted, not how we’d normally be consulted. We had less than a day to review vague details,” said the official, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. “This normally takes weeks of conversation. This EO took hours, and we never, never saw the final draft.”
“The ban took everyone by surprise,” the official added. “We’ve known things were in the works all week, but have basically been in the dark.”
“We honestly don’t know what is going to happen,” said the immigration official. “The EOs are extremely vague and some of our talk is based upon worst case scenarios. We have heard rumors coming from upper DHS echelons, but nothing concrete.”
The enormity of the executive order — slated to affect hundreds of thousands of people as well as severely impact the United States’ relationships with several countries — seemed to indicate it was written with little appreciation of the workings of the system it sought to undo.
It seems like some of the officials at the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), who already have an atrocious reputation for being arrogant and high-handed and discriminatory, feel emboldened to act even worse than usual and have taken actions that seem to go well beyond the letter of the orders.
Days before the executive order was signed, reports began to emerge that valid visa holders were suddenly being prevented from reentering the country after taking trips abroad. A senior U.S. immigration official, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, confirmed to The Intercept that the rash of unusual student visa revocations began roughly a week before the official order was signed.
It’s unclear whether the visa revocations last week were related to the subsequent ban. “But the timing of the revocations indicates that CBP supervisors felt sufficiently empowered to use their discretion to deny admission and cancel the visas in these cases,” the immigration official said.
The students repatriated earlier this week were also charged with violating U.S. immigration law — despite their valid visas — much in the same manner as some of those who were denied entry on Saturday, after the ban kicked in.
“Asylum law requires CBP officers to affirmatively ask if an applicant fears return when placing them into expedited removal,” the immigration official said. “By pressuring them to simply get on a plane without going into formal removal proceedings, they are violating our obligations under the refugee convention.”
“We are violating international law.”
Although DHS issued a statement saying it would comply with the court orders, at Los Angeles International Airport, Sara Yarjani, an Iranian citizen, was told by CBP officials she had to board a flight to Copenhagen, despite the nationwide stay and against the protests of lawyers and two U.S. Congresswomen who were present. The representatives, Rep. Judy Chu and Rep. Nanette Barragan, asked over the phone to meet with CBP officials, who refused. When asked who they were reporting to, the officials said “Donald J. Trump,” then hung up on them.
There are signs that the Trump administration has decided to defy several federal rulings ordering the government to stop the executive orders from being implemented pending a full review.
Several hours after the judicial rulings, the Department of Homeland Security said it would continue to implement Trump’s executive order. In a statement released early Sunday, the agency said “less than one percent” of international air travelers arriving Saturday in the U.S. were “inconvenienced” by the executive order.
“President Trump’s Executive Orders remain in place — prohibited travel will remain prohibited, and the U.S. government retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety,” the statement said. “No foreign national in a foreign land, without ties to the United States, has any unfettered right to demand entry into the United States or to demand immigration benefits in the United States.”
Welcome to Trump World, where the president thinks that he is a running a private business that he owns where whatever he says, goes.