Ishaan Tharoor writes: There are quite a few reasons to be both perplexed and skeptical about the new rules. Security experts interviewed by a number of outlets were bemused by the decision. Some doubted that placing laptops in cargo holds would be any safer than carrying them aboard. Journalists and researchers also feared that the measures would risk compromising sensitive information and sources once their laptops are no longer in their immediate possession.
The "Muslim laptop ban" will also separate journalists, activists and everyone else from their personal data and put it into unknown hands
— Evan Hill (@evanchill) March 21, 2017
If you're a journalist or an activist, fly with a chromebook. Carry minimal sensitive info anyway. Put it in an encrypted USB—always on you.
— Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) March 21, 2017
“It’s weird, because it doesn’t match a conventional threat model,” said Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, in an interview with the Guardian. “If you assume the attacker is interested in turning a laptop into a bomb, it would work just as well in the cargo hold. If you’re worried about hacking, a cellphone is a computer.”
Saj Ahmad, the chief analyst at aviation consultancy firm StrategicAero Research in London, told Al Jazeera that the move seems to contradict the U.S. federal aviation authority’s own stated concerns over the presence of lithium batteries (which are found in laptops and other such devices) in a plane’s cargo hold. He also noted that the new edicts wouldn’t deter a terror attack launched from an airport in Paris or Brussels — European capitals where jihadist cells have already carried out deadly and spectacular attacks.
“It does nothing to prevent security [threats] from places like France that have suffered a lot of terrorism in recent years,” said Ahmad. “How would Homeland Security mitigate against a passenger from France with a device in the cabin in that situation?”
The answer, critics suggest, is that the electronics ban is not about security.
“Three of the airlines that have been targeted for these measures — Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways — have long been accused by their U.S. competitors of receiving massive effective subsidies from their governments,” wrote political scientists Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman. “These airlines have been quietly worried for months that President Trump was going to retaliate. This may be the retaliation.”
Farrell and Newman suggested Tuesday’s order is an example of the Trump administration “weaponizing interdependence” — using its leverage in a world where American airports are key “nodes” in global air travel to weaken competitors. My colleague Max Bearak detailed how this could be a part of Trump’s wider protectionist agenda. In February, President Trump met with executives of U.S. airlines and pledged that he would help them compete against foreign carriers that receive subsidies from their home governments. [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reports: The Trump administration, searching for money to build the president’s planned multibillion-dollar border wall and crack down on illegal immigration, is weighing significant cuts to the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration and other agencies focused on national security threats, according to a draft plan.
The proposal, drawn up by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), also would slash the budget of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides disaster relief after hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters. The Coast Guard’s $9.1 billion budget in 2017 would be cut 14 percent to about $7.8 billion, while the TSA and FEMA budgets would be reduced about 11 percent each to $4.5 billion and $3.6 billion, respectively.
The cuts are proposed even as the planned budget for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees all of them, grows 6.4 percent to $43.8 billion, according to the plan, which was obtained by The Washington Post. Some $2.9 billion of that would go to building the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, with $1.9 billion funding “immigration detention beds” and other Immigration and Customs Enforcement expenses and $285 million set aside to hire 500 more Border Patrol agents and 1,000 more ICE agents and support staffers.
The plan puts the administration in the unusual position of trading spending on security programs for other security priorities at the southern border, raising questions among Republican lawmakers and homeland-security experts. [Continue reading…]
Greg Sargent reports: We keep hearing that President Trump will roll out the new version of his travel ban any day now. The White House delayed it earlier this week, because Trump advisers reportedly thought it could step on the good press he’d earned from his speech, thus inadvertently undercutting their own claims that enacting the ban is an urgent national security matter.
Here’s the real reason for the delay: The Trump administration can’t solve the problem that has always bedeviled this policy, which is that there isn’t any credible national security rationale for it. Unlike on the campaign trail, when you’re governing, you actually have to have justification for what you’re proposing, or you often run into trouble.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow had an important scoop on Thursday night that further undercuts the substantive case for Trump’s ban, which would restrict entry into the country by refugees and migrants from select Muslim-majority countries. Maddow obtained a new internal Department of Homeland Security document that reached this key judgment:
We assess that most foreign-born, US-based violent extremists likely radicalized several years after their entry to the United States, limiting the ability of screening and vetting officials to prevent their entry because of national security concerns.
This new document is separate from another DHS document that was leaked to the press last week. That one also undercut the case for the ban, concluding that “country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity.”[Continue reading…]
Huffington Post reports: A 22-year-old undocumented immigrant arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Jackson, Mississippi, on Wednesday after speaking to the media about her family’s detention is set to be deported without a court hearing, her attorney said on Thursday.
Daniela Vargas, who came to the U.S. from Argentina when she was 7 years old, previously had a work permit and deportation reprieve under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Her DACA status expired last November, and because she was saving money for the renewal — which costs $495 — her new application wasn’t received until Feb. 10.
On Wednesday, a spokesman for ICE said Vargas would go through court proceedings to determine whether she is eligible for some type of relief, adding that the agency would take no further action until those proceedings were completed.
But Abby Peterson, Vargas’ attorney, said ICE agents told her on Thursday that they would instead pursue immediate deportation without a court hearing or bond because Vargas entered the country through the visa waiver program, which allows certain foreign nationals to enter the U.S. for under 90 days without a visa. (Argentina was previously part of the program, although it no longer is.) Individuals who use the visa waiver program have no right to a hearing or to contest their removal unless they are seeking asylum. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: Ask residents of this coal-mining crossroads about President Trump’s decision to crack down on undocumented immigrants and most offer no protest. Mr. Trump, who easily won this mostly white southern Illinois county, is doing what he promised, they say. As Terry Chambers, a barber on Main Street, put it, the president simply wants “to get rid of the bad eggs.”
But then they took Carlos.
Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco — just Carlos to the people of West Frankfort — has been the manager of La Fiesta, a Mexican restaurant in this city of 8,000, for a decade. Yes, he always greeted people warmly at the cheerfully decorated restaurant, known for its beef and chicken fajitas. And, yes, he knew their children by name. But people here tick off more things they know Carlos for.
How one night last fall, when the Fire Department was battling a two-alarm blaze, Mr. Hernandez suddenly appeared with meals for the firefighters. How he hosted a Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at the restaurant last summer as police officers were facing criticism around the country. How he took part in just about every community committee or charity effort — the Rotary Club, cancer fund-raisers, cleanup days, even scholarships for the Redbirds, the high school sports teams, which are the pride of this city.
“I think people need to do things the right way, follow the rules and obey the laws, and I firmly believe in that,” said Lori Barron, the owner of Lori’s Hair A’Fairs, a beauty salon. “But in the case of Carlos, I think he may have done more for the people here than this place has ever given him. I think it’s absolutely terrible that he could be taken away.” [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reports: Henry Rousso is one of France’s most preeminent scholars and public intellectuals. Last week, as the historian attempted to enter the United States to attend an academic symposium, he was detained for more than 10 hours — for no clear reason.
On Wednesday, Rousso arrived at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport after an 11-hour flight from Paris, en route to Texas A&M University in College Station. There, he was to speak Friday afternoon at the Hagler Institute for Advanced Study.
But things did not go according to plan: Rousso — an Egyptian-born French citizen — was “mistakenly detained” by U.S. immigration authorities, according to Richard Golsan, director of the Glasscock Center for Humanities Research at Texas A&M.
“When he called me with this news two nights ago, he was waiting for customs officials to send him back to Paris as an illegal alien on the first flight out,” Golsan said Friday at the symposium, according to the Eagle, a newspaper that covers the College Station area. [Continue reading…]
BuzzFeed reports: Churches across the US are fighting back against the Trump administration’s mandate to ramp up deportations with new sanctuary practices of their own, using private homes in their congregations as shelter and potentially creating a modern-day underground railroad to ferry undocumented immigrants from house to house or into Canada.
Church leaders from California to Illinois and New York told BuzzFeed News they’re willing to take their sanctuary operations for undocumented immigrants underground should federal immigration authorities, emboldened by Trump’s recent directives to take a harder line on deportations, ignore precedent and raid their campuses.
“We’re willing to take that risk because it is our call to justice, and this is how we live our faith,” Rev. Justo Gonzalez II, pastor of Pilgrim St. Luke’s in Buffalo, told BuzzFeed News. He leads one of the churches that has reached out to an organization in Canada to possibly take in undocumented families.
Gonzalez knows they are stepping into legally murky territory, especially when it comes to possibly smuggling immigrants into Canada, but he said attorneys in his congregation have agreed to help them pro bono if they find themselves in hot water.
“I’m thrilled that we’re establishing a cross-border [link] into another country, so we could support people finding places they are welcome in because, frankly, this administration is not the place,” Gonzalez said. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: Khaled Khatib, a Syrian rescue worker who served as a cinematographer on the Oscar-nominated documentary short “The White Helmets,” has been barred by American officials from traveling to Los Angeles for Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, according to the Associated Press.
The AP reported that the Department of Homeland Security blocked Mr. Khatib after discovering “derogatory information” about him. Mr. Khatib had planned to fly from Istanbul to Los Angeles on Saturday. The AP said he had been detained earlier in the week by Turkish officials for undisclosed reasons, and that he needed a passport waiver to travel to the United States, which was denied. Raed Saleh, the leader of the White Helmets, was also to attend the Oscars; there was no indication that his plans were upended.
Mr. Khatib had planned to attend the ceremony after the Trump administration’s travel ban was lifted. The ban had halted or slowed travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Syria, but it was frozen by the courts.
A member of the White Helmets, a group that searches for survivors in the rubble of bombed-out buildings, Mr. Khatib also filmed the group’s rescue efforts for the 40-minute film, which was made for Netflix and directed by Orlando von Einsiedel. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: In Virginia, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents waited outside a church shelter where undocumented immigrants had gone to stay warm. In Texas and in Colorado, agents went into courthouses, looking for foreigners who had arrived for hearings on other matters.
At Kennedy International Airport in New York, passengers arriving after a five-hour flight from San Francisco were asked to show their documents before they were allowed to get off the plane.
The Trump administration’s far-reaching plan to arrest and deport vast numbers of undocumented immigrants has been introduced in dramatic fashion over the past month. And much of that task has fallen to thousands of ICE officers who are newly emboldened, newly empowered and already getting to work.
Gone are the Obama-era rules that required them to focus only on serious criminals. In Southern California, in one of the first major roundups during the Trump administration, officers detained 161 people with a wide range of felony and misdemeanor convictions, and 10 who had no criminal history at all.
“Before, we used to be told, ‘You can’t arrest those people,’ and we’d be disciplined for being insubordinate if we did,” said a 10-year veteran of the agency who took part in the operation. “Now those people are priorities again. And there are a lot of them here.”
Interviews with 17 agents and officials across the country, including in Florida, Alabama, Texas, Arizona, Washington and California, demonstrated how quickly a new atmosphere in the agency had taken hold. Since they are forbidden to talk to the press, they requested anonymity out of concern for losing their jobs.
The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, said on Tuesday that the president wanted to “take the shackles off” of agents, an expression the officers themselves used time and again in interviews to describe their newfound freedom.
“Morale amongst our agents and officers has increased exponentially since the signing of the orders,” the unions representing ICE and Border Patrol agents said in a joint statement after President Trump issued the executive orders on immigration late last month. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: The Australian children’s book author Mem Fox has suggested she might never return to the US after she was detained and insulted by border control agents at Los Angeles airport.
Fox, who is famous worldwide for her best-selling books including Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes and Possum Magic, was en route to a conference in Milwaukee earlier this month when she was stopped.
She told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation she was questioned by border agents for two hours in front of a room full of people – an experience that left her feeling like she had been physically assaulted.
“I have never in my life been spoken to with such insolence, treated with such disdain, with so many insults and with so much gratuitous impoliteness,” Fox said.
“I felt like I had been physically assaulted which is why, when I got to my hotel room, I completely collapsed and sobbed like a baby, and I’m 70 years old.”
The author attributed the aggressive questioning to border police who had been “turbocharged” by Donald Trump’s proposed travel ban.
Fox said she was questioned over her visa, despite having travelled to America 116 times before without incident. She was eventually granted access to the country.
After lodging a complaint over her treatment with the Australian embassy in Washington and the US embassy in Canberra, Fox received an emailed apology from US officials. [Continue reading…]
Jamelle Bouie writes: On Wednesday night at a bar in Olathe, Kansas, 51-year-old Adam Purinton pulled out a gun and opened fire on two local engineers from India as well as two patrons who tried to intervene in the situation. One of the Indian men, 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla, died of his wounds while at a hospital. The other, Alok Madasani, also 32, was injured. One of the bystanders, 24-year-old Ian Grillot, who is white, was seriously wounded. According to witnesses, Purinton had been kicked out of the bar after causing a disruption. He later re-entered carrying a weapon. Hurling racial slurs at the two engineers, he began firing. “Get out of my country,” he reportedly said.
If accurate, witnesses and victims have described a hate crime: an attack meant to intimidate an entire community, as much as to harm a particular individual. Given the larger atmosphere of fear and hostility toward immigrants and people perceived as “foreigners,” this shooting has received wide attention from national outlets. But there’s one prominent observer who hasn’t weighed in on the incident: the president of the United States. Donald Trump is quick to comment on everything from leaks in his administration to cable news — and he’s never refrained from condemning terrorist attacks.
Earlier this month, for example, at the Louvre Museum in Paris, a young man attacked a group of soldiers: Wielding a machete, he ran at them shouting in Arabic, “Allahu akbar.” Police shot and subdued the suspect, who was taken into custody with serious injuries. The attempted attack placed terrorism back in the headlines of French politics, renewing fears and concerns around security and immigration. Here in the United States, President Donald Trump used the incident to justify his exclusionary policies toward Muslim immigrants and refugees. “A new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris. Tourists were locked down,” said Trump on Twitter. “France on edge again. GET SMART U.S.” This was of a piece with statements Trump made in the wake of incidents in Nice, France, Berlin, and other attacks overseas claimed by militant Islamist groups.
There was no such statement about the two men in Kansas. No condemnation of the racial violence that grievously wounded an American and claimed the life of a law-abiding legal resident. But then, Trump is rarely interested in those incidents. Just two days after the attempted attack in France, 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette shot and killed six worshippers at a mosque in Quebec City. Described by activists as a “white nationalist,” Bissonnette was known locally as a right-wing, anti-immigrant troll inspired by extreme right-wing figures like Donald Trump and France’s Marine Le Pen. Where Trump was vocal in the face of the incident in Paris, he was silent following the murders in Quebec. [Continue reading…]
Times of India reports: The wife of Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who was shot dead in an apparent hate crime by a Navy veteran at a bar in Olathe city, has said that she had her doubts about staying in the US but was assured by her husband that “good things happen in America”.
Speaking at a news conference organised by GPS-maker Garmin where Srinivas worked, Sunayana Dumala said reports of bias in the US make minorities afraid as she questioned “do we belong here”.
She said she now wonders what will the US government do to stop hate crimes against minorities. [Continue reading…]
McClatchy reports: Kansas doesn’t have any hate crime statutes so the FBI was called in to investigate possible civil rights violations.
The shooting set off a wave of fear throughout the local Indian community and even got the attention of India’s government, which has promised to keep tabs on the investigation’s progress.
Kansas lawmakers immediately condemned what they saw as an act of prejudice and “cowardly” xenophobia.
“I am very disturbed by last night’s shooting in Olathe,” said U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan. “I strongly condemn violence of any kind, especially if it is motivated by prejudice and xenophobia.”
Rep. Kevin Yoder, a Republican who represents Olathe, called the attack “a senseless tragedy,” praised the “vibrant Indian-American community” and said diverse political and religions views are what make Kansas great. [Continue reading…]
Earlier this month, NBC Miami reported: An ex-convict who posted anti-Islamic rants online pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Monday for setting fire to a mosque that the Orlando nightclub shooter attended occasionally.
[Joseph] Schreiber, who is Jewish, posted on Facebook last July that “All Islam is radical” and that all Muslims should be treated as terrorists and criminals.
Prosecutor Steve Gosnell said Schreiber, 32, confessed to detectives that he set the fire, saying he believed Muslims “are trying to infiltrate our government” and that “the teaching of Islam should be completely, completely illegal.” [Continue reading…]
CNN reports: A small fire that damaged a mosque in suburban Tampa, Florida, has been ruled arson, Hillsborough County fire investigators said Friday.
The fire was reported about 2 a.m. Friday at the Islamic Society of New Tampa, fire department public information officer Corey Dierdorff said.
Firefighters arrived and quickly put out the fire at an entrance to the building, CNN affiliate WFTS reported. Nobody was injured in the blaze.
Authorities have not decided if the fire was a hate crime, but Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said at a news conference: “This is no different than the wave of anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish community centers and synagogue and bomb threats that have been called in all across the country, including in Tampa over the recent months.” [Continue reading…]
Muhammad Ali Jr., 44, and his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, the first wife of Muhammad Ali, were arriving at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Feb. 7 after returning from speaking at a Black History Month event in Montego Bay, Jamaica. They were pulled aside while going through customs because of their Arabic-sounding names, according to family friend and lawyer Chris Mancini.
Immigration officials let Camacho-Ali go after she showed them a photo of herself with her ex-husband, but her son did not have such a photo and wasn’t as lucky. Mancini said officials held and questioned Ali Jr. for nearly two hours, repeatedly asking him, “Where did you get your name from?” and “Are you Muslim?”
When Ali Jr. responded that yes, he is a Muslim, the officers kept questioning him about his religion and where he was born. Ali Jr. was born in Philadelphia in 1972 and holds a U.S. passport. [Continue reading…]
CNN reports: President Donald Trump has assigned the Department of Homeland Security, working with the Justice Department, to help build the legal case for its temporary travel ban on individuals from seven countries, a senior White House official tells CNN.
Other Trump administration sources tell CNN that this is an assignment that has caused concern among some administration intelligence officials, who see the White House charge as the politicization of intelligence — the notion of a conclusion in search of evidence to support it after being blocked by the courts. Still others in the intelligence community disagree with the conclusion and are finding their work disparaged by their own department.
“DHS and DOJ are working on an intelligence report that will demonstrate that the security threat for these seven countries is substantial and that these seven countries have all been exporters of terrorism into the United States,” the senior White House official told CNN. “The situation has gotten more dangerous in recent years, and more broadly, the refugee program has been a major incubator for terrorism.”
The report was requested in light of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ conclusion that the Trump administration “has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.” The seven counties are Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The senior White House official said the desire to bolster the legal and public case that these seven countries pose a threat is a work in progress and as of now, it’s not clear if DHS and DOJ will offer separate reports or a joint report.
One of the ways the White House hopes to make its case is by using a more expansive definition of terrorist activity than has been used by other government agencies in the past. The senior White House official said he expects the report about the threat from individuals the seven countries to include not just those terrorist attacks that have been carried out causing loss of innocent American life, but also those that have resulted in injuries, as well as investigations into and convictions for the crimes of a host of terrorism-related actions, including attempting to join or provide support for a terrorist organization.
The White House did not offer an on-the-record comment for this story despite numerous requests.
The White House expectation of what the report will show has some intelligence officials within the administration taking issue with this intelligence review, sources told CNN.
First, some intelligence officials disagree with the conclusion that immigration from these countries should be temporarily banned in the name of making the US safer. CNN has learned that the Department of Homeland Security’s in-house intelligence agency, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis — called I&A within the department — offered a report that is at odds with the Trump administration’s view that blocking immigration from these seven countries strategically makes sense. [Continue reading…]
Raul A. Reyes writes: The deportation force is here. According to new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memos, the Trump administration plans to vastly expand the pool of undocumented immigrants in the United States who will be targeted for removal.
Virtually everyone who is in the country without documentation is now eligible for deportation, and some in an expedited fashion. These memos, signed by DHS Secretary John Kelly, were rolled out on Tuesday.
There are two memos at issue here; one dealing with interior immigration enforcement, and the other with border security. They provide a scary picture of what life will soon look like for the estimated 11 million undocumented men, women, and children who live among us. But President Donald Trump’s deportations won’t necessarily make us safer, let alone “great again.” Instead they are a mixture of harsh new policies and questionable ideas from the past.
The most important thing to know about Trump’s deportation force is that they will be going after everyone they can. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: President Trump has directed his administration to more aggressively enforce the nation’s immigration laws, unleashing the full force of the federal government to find, arrest and deport those in the country illegally, regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes.
Documents released on Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security revealed the broad scope of the president’s ambitions: to publicize crimes by immigrants; enlist local police officers as enforcers; strip immigrants of privacy rights; erect new detention facilities; discourage asylum seekers; and, ultimately, speed up deportations.
The new enforcement policies put into practice the fearful speech that Mr. Trump offered on the campaign trail, vastly expanding the definition of “criminal aliens” and warning that such unauthorized immigrants “routinely victimize Americans,” disregard the “rule of law and pose a threat” to people in communities across the United States.
Despite Mr. Trump’s talk, research shows lower levels of crime among immigrants than among native-born Americans. [Continue reading…]
A report published by Pew Research Center in 2013 states: The crime rate among first-generation immigrants—those who came to this country from somewhere else—is significantly lower than the overall crime rate and that of the second generation. It’s even lower for those in their teens and early 20s, the age range when criminal involvement peaks. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: A British Muslim schoolteacher travelling to New York last week as a member of a school party from south Wales was denied entry to the United States.
Juhel Miah and a group of children and other teachers were about to take off from Iceland on 16 February on their way to the US when he was removed from the plane at Reykjavik. The previous week, on the 10 February, a US appeals court had upheld a decision to suspend Donald Trump’s executive order that temporarily banned entry to the country from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The trip proceeded as planned but pupils and colleagues from Llangatwg comprehensive in Aberdulais were left shocked and distressed after the maths teacher, who had valid visa documentation, was escorted from the aircraft by security personnel.
The teacher’s employer, Neath Port Talbot council, has written to the US embassy in London demanding an explanation and the issue is being taken up by Welsh politicians.
A council spokesman said Miah was left feeling belittled at what it described as “an unjustified act of discrimination”. The council said the teacher is a British citizen and does not have dual nationality. [Continue reading…]