Back on December 15, I wrote the following:
Another thing to watch for are the inevitable lawsuits that are going to be filed as the Trump administration takes actions that are of dubious legality. Autocrats are used to thinking that their word is law and although US presidents have got used to thinking that they can bend the law to their will, Trump is likely to take that approach well beyond even what Obama and Bush and their predecessors did. Trump has been a magnet for lawsuits in the past and there is no reason to think that he will be less so as president. How will he react when a court rules against him?
I did not expect that such a constitutional crisis would occur so soon, less than two weeks into the new administration, as some agents of the Customs and Border Protection, whose union endorsed Trump, seem to be willing to defy the orders of federal judges that the Executive Orders be stayed pending a full review of their constitutionality, taking refuge in wordplay.
On Sunday afternoon, four Democratic members of the House of Representatives arrived at Dulles airport in Virginia on word that people had been detained and denied access to lawyers.
“We have a constitutional crisis today,” representative Don Beyer wrote on Twitter. “Four members of Congress asked CBP officials to enforce a federal court order and were turned away.”
Representative Jamie Raskin, also at the airport, tweeted that the federal agency had given “no answers yet” about whether agents were ignoring the courts. Raskin joined several other attorneys there, including Damon Silvers, special counsel at AFL-CIO, one of the groups trying to help visa holders.
“As far as I know no attorney has been allowed to see any arriving passenger subject to Trumps exec order at Dulles today,” Silvers tweeted on Sunday evening. “CBP appears to be saying people in their custody not ‘detained’ technically & Dulles international arrivals areas not in the United States.
In the meantime, we are witnessing popular protests at airports all over the country against Trump’s bans on various categories of travelers entering the US, targeting people from seven-Muslim majority nations and Muslim refugees. Robert Mackey provides a round up of them.
There has been some backtracking from the Trump administration. Initially the Executive Order targeted people with permanent resident visas as well but under widespread protests, the head of the Department of Homeland Security has reversed that particular aspect. Of course Trump is too petty to admit that it is a reversal because he hates to admit that he is being forced to do something and so left it to someone else to announce the change.
On Saturday, as officials scrambled to implement the hastily issued order, the agency’s acting spokeswoman told Reuters “it will bar green card holders” originally from those nations. Dozens of green-card holders, making them permanent legal residents of the United States, were detained at airports across the country, along with previously vetted refugees from the seven nations, prompting spontaneous protests.
“In applying the provisions of the president’s executive order, I hereby deem the entry of lawful permanent residents to be in the national interest,” John Kelly, the new head of the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement issued on Sunday evening.
“Accordingly, absent the receipt of significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, lawful permanent resident status will be a dispositive factor in our case-by-case determinations,” Kelly added.
That Kelly’s statement came 10 hours after an earlier one, which made no mention of an exemption for those holding green cards, suggested that the policy was being crafted by discussions after, instead of before, Donald Trump issued the order.
We have witnessed a chaotic decision making process in the White House with chief of staff Reince Priebus and Trump’s brain Steve Bannon apparently making contradictory decisions about what the executive orders mean. It may be that they want to create chaos and confusion as part of some strategy that we are not privy to.