The Trump administration may introduce cell phone and social media checks at the U.S. border, according to CNN. The news comes after White House policy director Stephen Miller spoke with top U.S. officials on Saturday.
U.S. President Donald Trump is reportedly ready to compel U.S. customs officials and border patrol agents to ask foreigners to disclose all websites and social media sites they visit and share their cell phone contacts upon entering the U.S.
The news comes amid the U.S. President’s executive order temporarily barring immigrants from six Muslim countries – Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen – from entering the U.S., while immigrants from Syria have been banned indefinitely.
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Miller reportedly spoke with officials from the State Department, Department of Homeland Security and others to convey that Trump is “deeply committed” to the executive order and insisted that the public supports his anti-terrorism efforts, CNN reports. Miller also urged officials to not get distracted by “hysterical voices” in the media.
Social media checks were reportedly introduced in December
The idea of checking foreigners’ cell phones and social media posts at the border stems from a history of terror attacks in which the terrorist had earlier expressed extremist views on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Citing unnamed sources, CNN reports that if a foreigner declines to share the personal information on their cell phone, he or she will be denied entry.
While Miller said that the idea remains limited to preliminary discussions, he argued that the government has yet to do a better job in providing Americans with guarantees that all those who enter the U.S. embrace American values.
While it’s unclear whether the idea to check foreigners’ cell phones is constitutional, the U.S. government had quietly started introducing cell phone and social media checks in December, when border agents were asking foreigner visitors to share such information voluntarily. In fact, the Obama administration had approved asking people on terror watch lists for even more personal information upon entering the U.S., based on questionable “reasonable suspicion,” according to CNN, citing a 2014 report from The Intercept.
Private message checks could be reality
While there are little details on how exactly the cell phone and social media checks will be implemented, some have insisted that such a policy might be useful. The San Bernardino terror attack is reportedly part of this discussion in the White House.
Before carrying out the December 2, 2015 terror attack in San Bernardino, California, which killed 14 people, the attacker expressed support for “jihad and martyrdom” in private messages on social media, according to FBI director James Comey.
As far as the investigation of the terror attack was concerned, the attacker had never expressed extremist views publicly on social media, but the woman who helped him carry it out did. It’s unclear whether or not cell phone and social media checks upon entering the U.S. could also mean disclosing your private communications on social media.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer has yet to comment on the matter.
Widespread confusion and protests at U.S. airports
The Trump administration’s efforts to adopt stricter border checks, including barring immigrants from Muslim countries from entering the U.S., have faced backlash from the public. Trump, who lost the popular vote in 2016 presidential election but won more electoral votes than Hillary Clinton, had pledged to ban Muslims from entering the country during his presidential campaign.
The President’s executive order temporarily barring refugees and visa holders from the six Muslim-majority countries and banning Syrians indefinitely have angered human rights groups and caused protests at airports across the country. While the executive order, which also suspends the admission of all refugees for 120 days, was unveiled to the public on Wednesday, it wasn’t until Friday that border agents and customs officials were allowed to see the details of the order.
According to CNN, which cites a person familiar with the implementation of Trump’s executive order, airport staff and border agents have struggled to adjust to the new “extreme vetting” orders, as they prompted confusion.
Muslims detained and deported at U.S. airports
While the Trump administration has yet to unveil the details of the social media check plan, the President’s executive order has already resulted in widespread protests at U.S. airports. According to numerous reports, even people who had valid visas and greed cards from the countries on Trump’s infamous Muslim ban list were detained and deported by customs officials.
In New York, two lawyers representing Iraqi refugees were detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport, which prompted them to sue the federal government. A federal court in Brooklyn granted an emergency stay to prevent deportation of foreign visitors, but the overall ban stays.
The Brooklyn ruling allows those who landed in the U.S. and have valid visas or green cards to remain in the U.S. Several federal judges in other states, including Washington and Virginia, also made similar emergency rulings.
Shortly after the rulings came trickling in, the Department of Homeland Security issued a press release insisting it would “continue to enforce all of the president’s Executive Orders in a manner that ensures the safety and security of the American people.”
Trump defends executive order: “it’s not a Muslim ban”
On Sunday, Trump released a statement defending his executive order.
“This is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion — this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”
He said that his first priority is to always “protect and serve our country” and added that he would “find ways to help all of those who are suffering” without further elaborating.
“We will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do while protecting our own citizens and voters.”
On Sunday, Canada’s immigration minister said his country would offer temporary residency permits to travelers who become stranded in the U.S. by Trump’s “extreme vetting” order.