DelBene demands answers after rebuff at SeaTac Airport following Trump’s immigration and refugee executive orders

  • Sunday, January 29, 2017 3:23pm
  • News

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) today wrote to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seeking an explanation for why so little information was communicated to members of Congress during her visit to Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) on Saturday.

DelBene went to the airport on Jan. 28, after learning individuals traveling to Washington with visas were detained at the airport and denied entry into the United States as a result of President Trump’s executive order.

“I personally went to Sea-Tac and made numerous attempts to engage with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials in order to better understand the implementation of this Executive Order and the scope of issues and people affected,” DelBene wrote. “As a Member of Congress with the responsibility to serve my constituents and their families as they interact with taxpayer-funded federal agencies like CBP, and as all my attempts to get basic information about detainees at Sea-Tac were rebuffed the evening of January 28, 2017, I submit these written questions and request your prompt reply.”

Full text of the letter follows:

Kevin McAleenan

Acting Commissioner, CBP

1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20229

Dear Acting Commissioner McAleenan:

It came to my attention that individuals traveling to Washington State via Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) with valid visas were detained at Sea-Tac and denied entry into the United States as a result of the Executive Order that was issued by President Trump on January 27, 2017. Upon learning this information, I personally went to Sea-Tac and made numerous attempts to engage with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials in order to better understand the implementation of this Executive Order and the scope of issues and people affected. As a Member of Congress with the responsibility to serve my constituents and their families as they interact with taxpayer-funded federal agencies like CBP, and as all my attempts to get basic information about detainees at Sea-Tac were rebuffed the evening of January 28, 2017, I submit these written questions and request your prompt reply.

Please provide the following information:

Any and all guidance, directives, and/or policies from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the White House, and/or the Department of State regarding the implementation of Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Entry into the United States by Foreign Nationals;”

Any and all guidance to CBP on how to deal with visa holders already en route. If no such guidance was issued, what steps were taken to reduce the confusion and chaos that has occurred;

How the Executive Order is being interpreted and implemented for current visa holders, both immigrant and non-immigrant, seeking entry into the United States, visa applicants, LPRs, dual citizens, United States citizens, asylum seekers, and to any other individuals from the seven designated countries in the Executive Order applying for or renewing any of the immigration benefits listed above or any other immigration benefit;

How many individuals were detained at Sea-Tac between January 28, 2017 and January 29, 2017, in addition to the nationalities, immigration status, and final disposition of those individuals;

How many individuals arriving at Sea-Tac were denied entry to the United States between January 28, 2017 and January 29, 2017, in addition to the nationalities and immigration status of those individuals.

How long it took for individuals being detained to speak with attorneys, and any policies currently in place regarding allowing detainees access to counsel, notwithstanding the lack of a right to counsel for non-citizens under the INA;

What steps were taken by officials at Sea-Tac following the order by US District Judge Ann Donnelly barring deportation of US visa holders and those with approved refugee applications;

What policies and procedures are being put in place at Sea-Tac to provide clarity and due process to all travelers and their families with respect to the Order from this point forward;

What effect will the Order have on those individuals previously mentioned in the immediate future; and

Why the Administration did not offer better guidance to CBP personnel on how to execute the Order.

I also request that you promptly allow attorneys into the secondary processing area to permit access to counsel for any individuals held going forward.

Thank you for your prompt reply to the above questions.

Sincerely,

Suzan DelBene

Member of Congress

EARLIER PRESS RELEASE:

Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Suzan DelBene hailed Western District of Washington judge Thomas S. Zilly’s temporary restraining order, along with a stay issued by a New York judge, which has kept two immigrants in limbo at Seattle-Tacoma airport from being turned away and sent back to their countries of origin.

“This executive order was inhumane and undermines core American values. It has created confusion across our country, and thrown into fear and limbo families who await their loved ones and those who traveled across oceans. I am grateful to the ACLU of Washington and Northwest Immigrants Rights Project for their swift and principled legal challenges,” said Rep. Jayapal. “We have won a temporary victory, halting the unconstitutional deportations of two people and keeping them from being sent away. Now, we must keep fighting.”

“President Trump’s irresponsible executive order created chaos for many families today,” Rep. DelBene said. “I’m glad the Western District of Washington stepped in to delay part of the order thanks to the hard work of the ACLU of Washington and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. We don’t need to close our doors to keep Americans safe and we still have work ahead to ensure the President ends his cruel targeting of individuals based on religion and nationality.”

Jorge Barón, Executive Director of Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, joined the lawmakers in applauding the court orders.

“We appreciate that our political leaders in our state have stepped forward to stand on behalf of immigrants and refugees,” said Barón. “We are pleased that the work of many advocates has enabled us to temporarily put a halt to the harms of this executive order. And we commend the federal judiciary for responding quickly to redress the constitutional violations we were witnessing today.”

The two lawmakers filed a joint brief in the case expressing alarm at the lack of transparency from Customs and Border Protection.

ANOTHER EARLIER RELEASE:

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) released the following statement regarding President Donald Trump’s executive orders halting refugees from entering the United States and detaining incoming refugees, green card holders, and others at airports around the country:

“The executive order on immigration flies in the face of core American values and is hurting U.S. interests. As a country, we can find better ways to strengthen security through increased information sharing, law enforcement cooperation, and the use of biometrics and technology.

“We are a country that treats everyone equally under the law and that believes in due process. We do not discriminate based on national origin or religion. The executive order is likely unconstitutional and should be challenged in federal courts.

“Our state has a proud tradition of resettling refugees from all over the world including Cambodia, Vietnam, and Somalia. We have a stronger economy and more dynamic high-tech workforce thanks to diversity. Likewise, the U.S. benefits from immigration. Our country must continue to do its part to help Syrian refugees who are suffering the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II, as well as others fleeing from persecution.”

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