Custom and Border Protection employees were ordered to ignore elected officials and treat lawyers’ calls as though they were “protests” amid President Trump’s controversial travel ban, according to a new report.
Trump in January signed an executive order restricting travel from several Muslim-majority countries and suspending all new refugee visas. The sudden implementation of the initial ban prompted a series of court orders seeking to block it as well as chaos in airports across the country.
High-level Homeland Security officials ahead of the ban ordered airport staff to treat lawyers as suspicious and to disregard members of Congress, documents obtained by the Daily Beast and the James Madison Project revealed.
In a January email, a Customs and Border Protection official emphasized the importance of the order: “As stated on the call earlier today, you and your staff are NOT to engage with the media or Congressional representatives at this time,” according to the Beast.
Massive protests erupted across the country in the wake of the executive order.
The email, from executive assistant commissioner of CBP’s Field Operations Todd Owen, was sent out less than 24 hours before the ban went into effect.
Sen. Cory Booker told the Beast he was “extremely troubled” over the orders to “ignore Congressional representatives trying to do their job.” While he said he and his colleagues suspected such orders, the New Jersey politician still found their confirmation “jarring.”
The U.S. Supreme Court at the end of June allowed the Trump travel ban to go into effect with exemptions for those who have “bona fide relationships” with someone living in the country until the case be heard at the start of term in October.
The Trump administration, in defining such relationships, agreed the ban would not apply to those with an immediate relative, spouse, fiance, son-in-law or daughter-in-law already in the country.
Last month, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 to expand such exemptions to include those who have grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law already present in the country.
The ban restricts travel from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and limits refugee admission. Iraq was initially included but later removed from the list in a revised executive order.