January 19, 2018


Lawbreakers : A startling new report shows how Customs and Border Protection violated court orders to enforce Trump's first travel ban. (MARK JOSEPH STERN, JAN 19, 2018, Slate)

CBP ran into legal trouble almost as soon as U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly barred the government from deporting individuals covered by the executive order. By the time Donnelly issued her ruling in Darweesh v. Trump on Jan. 28 of last year, CBP had detained an Iranian national with a student visa at Los Angeles International Airport for 23 hours. When Donnelly's decision came down, the student was in the process of being placed on a flight out of the country. She promptly informed a pair of CBP officers that a judge had issued a restraining order blocking the ban. The officers did not halt her deportation or ask a supervisor about the ruling. Instead, they forced her to board the plane. (Several days later, she obtained permission to fly back.) [...]

[T]he next day, Jan. 29, CBP crossed a clear legal line. That morning, U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs issued a decision in Louhghalam v. Trump barring CBP officers at Boston Logan International Airport from detaining or removing anyone covered by the order. She also explicitly directed CBP to "notify airlines that have flights arriving at Logan Airport" that "individuals on those flights will not be detained or returned based solely on the basis of the Executive Order."

CBP did the exact opposite of what Burroughs' ruling required. The OIG investigation found that the agency continued to call airlines and instruct them not to let travelers board planes to the United States if they were covered by the order. It did so despite having full knowledge of Burroughs' restraining order. Indeed, OIG found that CBP did "everything in its power to block [these] travelers" from boarding flights bound for the United States. Officers threatened airline representatives, asserting that the government would fine them $50,000 and bar their planes from landing if they ignored CBP's (unlawful) orders.

This flat contradiction of Burroughs' ruling led to a remarkable standoff in Frankfurt. Lufthansa, a major German airline, was preparing to begin the boarding of a flight to Boston that included multiple passengers covered by the ban. A CBP officer stationed at the airport personally delivered an instruction to the Lufthansa flight manager at the departing gate forbidding these passengers from boarding. The airline consulted its legal department and concluded, correctly, that CBP was violating a court order. It therefore rejected CBP's instruction and permitted the passengers to board.

The OIG report states that "CBP was not pleased with Lufthansa's actions." The next few sentences of the report were redacted by the Department of Homeland Security, so it's unclear exactly what happened next. But in the end, Lufthansa secured entry into the United States for a total of 20 people across multiple flights--people who would've otherwise been stranded in Frankfurt.

Posted by at January 19, 2018 6:33 PM