Border Agents Using ‘Sledgehammer’ Tactics as New Travel Ban Nears

Agents are reportedly detaining and threatening to deport travelers on little basis, a worrying trend as Trump readies ‘Muslim Ban 2.0’
—by Nadia Prupis, staff writer at Common Dreams

The White House has said the new order will be “tailored” to survive a court battle, unlike Trump’s previous memorandum. (Photo: AP

Civil rights groups are criticizing border agents’ “sledgehammer approach” to vetting international travelers at airports around the country, a troubling trend as President Donald Trump prepares to sign his new ban on immigrants and refugees.

Agents are reportedly detaining and threatening to deport travelers, questioning them about their religions, and demanding access to their phones and social media platforms, often targeting those with non-Western names or in certain professions—including Muhammad Ali’s American-born son and a French Holocaust historian.

“Customs and Border Patrol [CBP] agents are feeling more emboldened by the signal being sent from the White House,” Jay Holland, a civil rights attorney, told The Hill. “We are seeing a real difference here in terms of the aggressiveness and in terms of the implementation of enforcement efforts, no doubt about it.”

“It’s basically a sledgehammer approach,” he said.

The issue is particularly worrying as the White House is expected to unveil a new executive order on immigration that the administration has promised will be “tailored” to survive a court battle, unlike Trump’s previous memorandum, which was suspended just days after its implementation in January.

Insiders say the new order lifts the freeze on allowing travelers from Iraq, one of the countries included on the list of seven majority-Muslim nations from the first memo. It is also only likely to target new visa applicants, while the original affected existing visa-holders as well.

The new order was expected to come as early as Wednesday, but White House officials reportedly scrapped the signage amid positive reviews of Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress. Still, that speech included the announcement of a new federal office to support “American victims” of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, giving little reassurance that the president’s stance on immigration had softened.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in an email to supporters that it was ready to take on what they called the “Muslim Ban 2.0.”

“No matter how he seeks to disguise the true intent of the new order,” wrote the group’s executive director Anthony D. Romero, “we are prepared to come to the immediate defense of any people whose rights it puts in jeopardy. ”

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Today: 2017-03-01

Richard Eskow
Trump Offers “A Nation of Miracles.” Your Move, Democrats.

Tuesday’s speech largely toed the Republican party line. Take infrastructure. On the campaign trail, Trump promised major government investment. On Tuesday, he promised a financial boon for corporations and bankers. He promised no American would go without healthcare. But the ideas Trump floated on Tuesday could have been written by the insurance executives he hosted on Monday – and probably were … He has promised not to cut Social Security or Medicare … But he pointedly refused to repeat that promise on Tuesday night.

Tone Deaf

Tone is meaningless, says Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein: “Governing, the old saw says, is choosing. To the joint session of Congress, Trump made no choices at all. It was an hour plus of cotton candy. I suspect it’ll get excellent reviews; a lot of pundits who have been brutal to Trump will welcome the chance to praise him, and I suspect everyone is pleased to have the president toss aside his clown act, at least for one night. But it’s a sugar high, and there won’t be much if anything remaining of it after a few hours.”

OurFuture.org’s Isaiah J. Poole slams Trump’s racism: “[Trump] flung an amount of cynical racial exploitation and manipulation during his speech before a joint session of Congress Tuesday night that was unprecedented in recent memory … Without addressing the deep concerns communities of color have about police abuse of deadly force, Trump reprised a version of the law-and-order themes that dominated his campaign for the presidency … Even more pernicious was his use of African-American crime victims as poster images for his efforts to deport millions of black and brown immigrants who are living peaceably in our communities.”

Details, Details

Few immigration details. HuffPost: “Hours before his speech to a joint session of Congress, the president reportedly told news anchors he was open to a legal status for some undocumented immigrants … Trump’s speech, however, gave no such indication, even though it mentioned immigration reform … The president only addressed one aspect of immigration legislation: the need to reform legal immigration to a ‘merit-based immigration system.’ … He discussed immigrants almost exclusively in the context of crime, terrorism and lowering Americans’ wages.”

Few health care details. HuffPost: “…outside of some general platitudes that Trump has long endorsed, the president offered no new guidelines for a replacement to former President Barack Obama’s 2010 law … for the lawmakers actually familiar with the complexity of ‘replacing’ the Affordable Care Act, it was revealing that the president put the onus on Congress to resolve this issue. Compare that vague, lead-from-behind approach to Trump’s section on a tax overhaul, where he said, ‘My economic team is developing historic tax reform.’”

Few tax details. Bloomberg: “President Donald Trump offered no new details of his plan to overhaul corporate and individual taxes — renewing questions about whether he supports a controversial proposal to tax U.S. companies’ imports while excluding their exports … Trump’s tax plans for individuals also remain to be clarified…”

“Donald Trump Goes All In for the Military-Industrial Complex” writes The Nation’s John Nichols: “…the president imagined that the United States could cut taxes for wealthy Americans and corporations, rip tens of billions of dollars out of domestic programs (and diplomacy), hand that money over to the military-industrial complex, and somehow remain a functional and genuinely strong nation.”

Former Gov. Steve Beshear slams Trump in Democratic response. Politico: “[He delivered] a direct shot at Trump’s support among working-class Americans, many of whom have benefited from the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansion … ‘So far, every Republican idea to “replace” the Affordable Care Act would reduce the number of Americans covered, despite promises to the contrary,’ he said. ‘Mr. President, folks here in Kentucky expect you to keep your word. Because this isn’t a game — it’s life and death for people.’”

Back to (Not) Governing

“Republicans near make-or-break moment on Obamacare repeal” reports Politico: “… Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called a special all-members caucus meeting Wednesday to try and get his rowdy caucus in line … GOP leaders are facing pressure from both moderates and conservatives as they try to craft a bill … [They] are coming to grips with the growing possibility they’ll have to just put a repeal bill on the floor — and dare GOP lawmakers to vote no.”

Trump delays new travel ban. CNN: “Signing the executive order Wednesday, as originally indicated by the White House, would have undercut the favorable coverage [from Trump’s address to Congress … ‘We want the (executive order) to have its own “moment,”‘ [a senior administration] official said.”

Trump’s trade representative on slow track to Senate confirmation. Canadian Press: “…Robert Lighthizer’s approval as U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) could be delayed for months, amid partisan stalling and because past legal work for foreign governments means he needs a special waiver from Congress … Does that mean [NAFTA] talks might be held up for months? [Rep. Chris] Collins replied: ‘Yup.’”