Meet the ACLU Attorney Interrogated by Border Agents About Her Work, Nationality & More

Meet the ACLU Attorney Interrogated by Border Agents About Her Work, Nationality & More


NERMEEN SHAIKH: The Ninth Circuit Court of
Appeals is expected to rule as early as today on President Trump’s temporary travel ban
on refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries. On Tuesday, a three-judge panel heard arguments
from lawyers representing the Justice Department and the state of Washington, which sued Trump
over the order. On Wednesday morning, Trump accused the judges
of being, quote, “so political” and described the legal process as “disgraceful.” PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And I want to tell
you, I listened to a bunch of stuff last night on television that was disgraceful. It was disgraceful. … So, I think it’s sad. I think it’s a sad day. I think our security is at risk today. And it will be at risk until such time as
we are entitled and get what we are entitled to as citizens of this country, as chiefs,
as sheriffs of this country. AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about the executive
order, we’re joined by Hina Shamsi. In addition to being the director of the American
Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, she’s also been personally impacted
by Trump’s executive order. Although she is a legal permanent resident,
Hina was stopped and questioned about her Pakistani citizenship and her work with ACLU,
when she flew back into the country last week. So, Hina, let’s start there. What happened to you? Where did you fly in? What were you asked? HINA SHAMSI: Well, Amy, I was in the island
nation of Dominica for client meetings and depositions in our lawsuit on behalf of torture
victims seeking accountability from the two CIA contractors who are behind the torture
program there. And I was— AMY GOODMAN: Mitchell and Jessen? HINA SHAMSI: Mitchell and Jessen, yes, Doctors
Mitchell and Jessen. And I was coming back from that set of meetings
and the deposition, and transiting through San Juan, Puerto Rico. When I was going through immigration, it seemed
like an immediate flag went up, and I was pulled into what’s called secondary screening
by a Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, agent. Now, I want to emphasize something, which
is that, you know, what happened to me is nothing compared to the suffering and hardship
that people impacted by the executive order, Muslim ban, are going through and have gone
through. To me, this was, though—and I usually don’t
write about things that are so personal, but it said something to me about the climate
in these times. And the kinds of questions that were raised
were ones that I have never experienced in over 25 years of travel into and out of this
country, over 10 years of work for the ACLU and other rights groups, and travel in that
context. AMY GOODMAN: You went to college here? HINA SHAMSI: I came here to go to college. AMY GOODMAN: Where did you go? HINA SHAMSI: Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. You know, worked here, law school, all of
that. And never have I experienced anything like
this, because—it started out with something absolutely legitimate, which is, you know,
“Where were you, and what were you doing?” Then, as soon as I said that I work for the
American Civil Liberties Union and I was traveling for work, there was an entire series of questions
that began with “Why would someone working for an organization, or this organization
with ‘American’ in its name, have this passport?” And the agent had my Pakistani passport in
his hand. Or, “Why would someone working for an organization
with ‘American’ in its name be representing people who are not citizens?” And when I was explaining that my work is,
and long has been, as a U.S.-trained lawyer, sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution, which
is what I work to do at the ACLU, one response was: “Well, if you’re working for an organization
with ‘American’ in its name, and your focus is the U.S. Constitution, why are you traveling
abroad so much?” And so, over and over again, I tried to explain
my work, my focus on U.S. Constitution and treaties, and the fact that I was traveling
for this work. And amongst the responses were: “When you’re
at meetings and talks abroad, do you talk about U.S. law, or do you talk about the laws
of other countries?” Now, none of this is remotely relevant to
what might be the legitimate question that CBP can ask, which is, you know, “What were
you doing?” and “What’s your status?” and “Can you legitimately come into the United
States?” And it really was a tenor of suspicion, of
emphasis on American and what constitutes American, in a way that—that I hadn’t
seen before. NERMEEN SHAIKH: And you were taken to secondary
screening, as you said. Now, there were a very large number of people
who were subjected to secondary screening from Pakistan and from other countries right
after 9/11. But you say this has never happened to you. But in your view, how does what’s happening
now compare to what happened immediately following 9/11, and which went on for some time, for
people who were, like you, legal permanent residents of the U.S., but had passports from
Muslim-majority countries? HINA SHAMSI: Right. And indeed, immediately after 9/11, there
was a whole series of questioning for people with—you know, legal permanent residents
with Pakistani nationality and nationality of other majority-Muslim countries, as well. And I’ve certainly represented people who
have been unjustifiably questioned based on their work or their, you know, citizenship
or their studies. And perhaps it’s remarkable that I’ve
not been questioned before. You know, I sometimes—I sometimes think
that. But it is also true that in all my years of
my travel, when I was challenging Bush administration policies of torture and Guantánamo and other
human rights abuses, or travel during the Obama administration, when I’ve been challenging
unlawful targeted killing, anti-Muslim discrimination, illegal spying, it hadn’t—people hadn’t
questioned me about—in this manner, which seemed to sort of convey a questioning of
identity and even a sense of loyalty here. That just hadn’t happened before. And so, you know, it’s hard to generalize,
and I’m reluctant to do that based on my single experience, but we’ve certainly heard
of other people, citizens and LPRs of Pakistan and other majority-Muslim countries, being
questioned even recently. And so, I worry deeply about the message that
has been sent from the top, this anti-Muslim animus, and the ways that it is being heard
by government officials and government agents who are able to exercise this power at the
border and other places. AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you if they asked
you to give up your social media passwords or anything like that. HINA SHAMSI: They did not. They did not ask me that, although they’ve
been asking—there was concern that they’ve been asking other people that recently. AMY GOODMAN: Right, because CNET is reporting
visitors to the U.S. might be asked to relinquish their social media passwords to border agents
as part of an attempt to tighten security checks. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was
being questioned by the Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday, and he said, “We want
to get on their social media, with passwords: What do you do? What do you say?” They asked him—he responded, “If they don’t
want to cooperate, then you don’t come in.” What are your rights, both as American citizens,
as permanent residents like you, and as people with visas who are coming into this country? HINA SHAMSI: So this is a hotly contested
area right now. And it is—first of all, as a citizen, there’s
a right to re-enter the country. As a legal permanent resident, you can get
questioned, and we generally advise people to answer questions and to know that if they’re
not responding to questions or refusing to provide information, that they might face
delays. But this is a situation in which people can
be very vulnerable and feel very vulnerable at the border. And when there were proposals during the Obama
administration to ask people for their social media handles and their passwords and so on,
we and other organizations wrote in comment to criticize and question these proposals:
How specifically are you going to implement this? For what purpose? Are you going to retain this information? What are you actually going to do about it? And we’ve not—we’ve not really received
any satisfactory responses yet. And so this is something that we are watching
very, very closely, indeed. NERMEEN SHAIKH: And do you know if there are
human rights lawyers or organizations who have already issued this inquiry to the Trump
administration, since there are reports it’s already happening? HINA SHAMSI: Yes, and I think people are questioning
and asking what’s going on and what are you planning on doing—questions that we’ve
had previously and that are even more acute now.

Comments

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    Faisal Hussein

    BRAVO DEMOCRACY NOW! And thank you so much for this excellent interview, as well as for airing your fantastic channel on YouTube. Cheers!!!

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    adam schwartz

    Ms. Shamsi: intelligent, articulate, compassionate, and on our side. where are these people when we're voting? my ballot didn't reflect any of these qualities.

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    Real UFO Videos

    CIA got the green light to spy on all Americans. Thank the outgoing prez.? Though? Prez Trump could overturn it? He won't.

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    HexInfinity

    What does it mean to be American? With liberty and justice for all?

    Let's remind ourselves of the angels of our better beings.

  7. Post
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    Greg K

    Trump feeds on fear and paranoia. American borders were already pretty nasty before Trump. Now, waterboarding may just become a standard part of the arrival procedure.

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    john kelso

    Great, another America hating Terrorist lover! If any terrorist Killer gets in now due to your interfering with our nations safety, and people are killed, IT IS YOUR FAULT! not Trumps.

  13. Post
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    john kelso

    BTW now we finally, actually have democracy! and look at the socialist whining and rioting when they don't get their way! They obviously don't understand democracy is not always getting your way! thats why there is a thing called a vote.

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    Jonathan C.

    Welcome to the Fourth Reich! This is how it starts. Normalizing harassment and racism step by step. Wake up AmeriKKKa!

  17. Post
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    dream3333333

    America is a disgrace. America's elitists running the country have gone insane. To consider a mentally deranged monster is the end of the American Constitution as we know it. Monster trump has no respect for the Constitution. America has never been a democracy. A nation that mercilessly slaughters and tortures anyone needs to be overthrown by its own people. Way past due for the American people to wake up ! Our own government planned 9/11 – murdered thousands to start a war over oil ! We are living in George Orwell's 1984. If trump is not impeached, many of us may perish. Native Americans who protested for clean water at Standing Rock have been charged with felonies, will be imprisoned for many years. Many more Americans are arrested every day for just for speaking up. There is no longer Freedom of speech. This country's government is synonymous with HATE. I am a second generation Armenian and I wish my grandparents had never emigrated to this country. Disgraceful place.

  18. Post
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    charlene torres

    For everyone who is visibly STUCK ON STUPID President Trump's immigration order is in FULL COMPLIANCE with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 Section 121 (F), it is also sanctioned by another little document that EVERYONE should know "The Constitution of the United States of America" 2/2. An American respects the laws of the country, they do not bring embarrassment and shame to the country and their fellow countrymen. I, as an American am saddened by the support given to people who have broken the laws of this country yet NOT ONE protest when it was made known that the NSA had violated the Right to Privacy OF EVERY SINGLE AMERICAN CITIZEN ! To me, this puts into question the morals and ethics of ALL OF THOSE WHO ARE PROTESTING ! I will gladly change my way of thinking if EVERY PERSON PROTESTING would answer one question HONESTLY. If someone breaks into YOUR HOME, DOES THAT GIVE THEM THE RIGHT TO LIVE THERE ?

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    Terry Edmond

    Why didn't she swing by the orphanage there in Haiti? She cares so much about muslims but not children sacrificed! Why doesn't she ask the Clinton Foundation, "Where's all the money?".

  20. Post
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    MiMi Joys1963

    Democracy Now? Hell No! Why do you not comprehend that The United States of America is NOT a Democracy? The United States of America is a Republic! Hence the Pledge of the United States says, AND TO THE REPUBLIC FOR WHICH IT STANDS, ONE NATION UNDER GOD…
    I'M SO SICK OF THE LEFTISTS STUPIDITY ABOUT OUR NATION'S FOUNDATION!

  21. Post
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    Faroek Nasierkhan

    As much as I'd like to believe that someone could somehow take down Donald Trump and his new regime, I seriously doubt this is the case. This is especially true if we think that the ACLU are going to somehow be able to save the day. All you have to do to come to this conclusion is look back at their track record dealing with Reagan etc.

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    G Hooghkirk HIGHLIFE

    ACLU ARE A RACIST HATE ORGANIZATION. THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR AT Least 2 terrorist attacks against republican leaders. They were founded by the leader of the kkk. They lie and say Catholic Church's are hate groups as bad as Isis or kkk. They fund antifa black panther terrorist organization who call for white genocide for catholic American citizens to be jailed because of their skin color and religious views. They fund liberal democrats riots against the president because they have a totalitarian ideology who make up racism that doesn't exist they make up hate crimes that don't exist. They ruin people's lives lying and totally making up false accusations that caring honest Americans are bigots and racist with no prof They promote division and violence against white peoples. They promote hate and violence against prolife woman who are against killing babies. The money talks with this aclu hate organization democrats agenda is what they stand for and the destruction of America and the heritage and values we hold dear to our hearts. If you're white disagree with Islam raping and murdering American citizens then they label you as a hate group or a klu klutz klan member even if you're a former Muslim who wants to expose the cult. ACLU IS A VIOLENT HATE ORGANIZATION PERIOD. 🇺🇸

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