Immigration Judges, Border Agents Google Applicants’ Names, Attorneys Warn
Immigration attorneys have reported that immigration judges, adjudicators, and border agents sometimes google (perform an Internet search) applicants’ names, even printing out items from sites like MySpace, published articles, or letters to the editor and questioning petitioners about them. Some have been detained at the border or denied entry as a result.
In one incident, a Canadian psychologist attempting to enter the U.S. was reportedly detained at the border in Blaine, Washington. He was barred from entering the U.S. and told he could apply to the Department of Homeland Security for a waiver. The border guard had conducted a random Internet search and found an article published in 2001 in which the psychologist discussed his LSD use some 40 years earlier. “Admitted drug use is admitted drug use,” a spokesman for the Border Patrol said. He noted that “[a]nyone who is determined to be a drug abuser or user is inadmissible. A crime involving moral turpitude is inadmissible and one of those areas is a violation of controlled substances.”
The psychologist complained to the U.S. consulate in Vancouver, which sent this reply via e-mail: “Both our countries have very similar regulations regarding issuance of visas for citizens who have violated the law. The issue here is not the writing of an article, but the taking of controlled substances. I hear from American citizens all the time who have decades-old DUI convictions who are barred from entry into Canada and who must apply for waivers. Same thing here. Waiver is the only way.”
In another case, a Muslim American firefighter from Toledo, Ohio, was born in the U.S. and converted to Islam, changing his name from Edward Eugene Reed, Jr., to Zakariya Muhammad Reed. He had also spent 20 years serving in the National Guard. After visiting his wife’s family in Ontario, he has been detained at the U.S. border a number of times. He says he has been asked why he changed his name and what his faith is, and alleges that one guard muttered, “You know, we’re really too good to these detainees. We should treat them like we do in the desert. We should put a bag over their heads and zip tie their hands together.” Another agent asked him about a letter to the editor he had written in 2006 that was critical of Israel’s actions toward Lebanon and the Palestinians, as well as the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The agents would not tell him why he had been detained, Mr. Reed said, although one border agent said there was a “problem with his name.” He contacted his representative in Congress, Marcy Kaptur, whose aide, Daniel Foote, suggested the trouble may have resulted from his changing his name to a Muslim one. Rep. Kaptur wrote on his behalf to the congressional liaison at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, but despite assurances that his record has been corrected, he continues to be detained and questioned at the border.
Ron Smith, a Customs and Border Protection public affairs officer based in Detroit, Michigan, said that “Customs does not practice [or] condone any kind of profiling. It’s completely against our policies. If an individual is found doing so, they would be subject to discipline, up to and including dismissal. Regarding the alleged hooding and zip-tying comment, Smith said: “That would be something we would definitely take action on. It’s not allowed. It’s not something we allow our officers to say.”
An article detailing Mr. Reed’s experience is available here.