Ever since Donald Trump ordered a travel ban against citizens of seven Muslim countries, there have been reports of heightened enforcement against undocumented immigrants and of international travelers who have a right to be in the country.
Just this weekend two stories received media attention. An Australian writer named Mem Fox was detained for two hours in Los Angeles despite having a valid visa. A French academic named Henry Rousso was detained for ten hours in Houston and was on the verge of being deported. Only swift action from American colleagues allowed him entry. There will be more and more stories like these as the Trump administration unleashes an attack on immigrants. But we can't forget that these incidents aren't new.
In 2010 I wrote about Customs and Border Patrol agents patrolling cities and towns in upstate New York for my Black Agenda Report column. They have authority to act anywhere within 100 miles of the border. Speaking of borders, the U.S./Canadian border appears to be particularly troublesome. A Muslim American writer and her family were detained there in 2013 after returning from a wedding. All were citizens, all had valid passports. But Muslims, so who cares? That same year a white Dutchman was refused entry because he had visited Muslim nations and packed a raincoat. (They actually asked him about the raincoat.)
A very troubling story emerged several days ago when passengers on a Delta airlines flight from San Francisco to New York were required to present I.D. upon disembarking from their plane. CPB claimed that a person scheduled for deportation might have been on the flight, but that raises many questions. Doesn't the airline know who is onboard? Isn't there a manifest? I wonder if such a person even existed or if this is a new way to introduce constant surveillance over our lives.
Customs and Border Patrol(CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) now feel that "the shackles have been taken off" as the Trump administration makes clear that all undocumented people are in effect scheduled for deportation. The Obama administration deported more people, at least 2.5 million than any other president. Asylum seekers from African countries were given special and unwanted attention as their claims were routinely denied.
Donald Trump won the presidency in large part because he vowed to build a wall on the Mexican border. The CPB and ICE are obviously anxious to go about the business of targeting people for removal and like all law enforcement they have no concerns for civil liberties. In fact, we have no rights at all at airport customs. It is treated as a legal no mans land and unless a targeted person has outside help like Henry Rousso, he or she is doomed to face whatever treatment the CBP wants to mete out.
The situation will be worse for legal and undocumented immigrants and for international travelers too. But this situation did not spring fully formed from Donald Trump's head. There is a long history of fascistic behaviors at these police agencies and no one was ever safe from them. All an air traveler need do is claim a feeling of unease near a Muslim fellow traveler and voila... The Muslim is kicked off the plane. And yes this happened before Trump. Continuity is the watch word on this and every other Trump policy.