The Proposals Under Consideration

Foreign nationals, including British citizens, may be subject to “extreme vetting” at the U.S Border, under radical new proposals being considered by the Trump administration.

The extreme vetting procedures reportedly include requiring visitors to the U.S to hand over their cell phones and passwords at the U.S Border, for inspection by border staff. Similarly, travelers may be required to hand over their passwords for any social media accounts they hold and may be interrogated at length about their ideology. According to the Wall Street Journal, which broke the news story, the “extreme vetting” procedures will apply to all foreign nationals, including nationals of the United States’ “closest allies”.

A senior Homeland Security official told the Wall Street Journal that the purpose of the proposals is to “figure out who [US Customs and Border Protection staff] are communicating with”. He added that the contents of the average person’s cell phone can be an invaluable source of information, in determining whether an individual should be granted entry to the United States.

Failure to Comply With A Request to Turn Over a Cell Phone and Passwords

If travelers fail to comply with a request to turn over a cell phone or social media passwords, it is likely they will be denied entry to the U.S. Under U.S Constitutional law, the rights of aliens at the U.S Border are limited.

US citizens have an absolute right to enter the United States. Similarly, for permanent residents, the burden is on the U.S Government to prove they have become inadmissible for entry. However, for visa holders and people travelling under the Visa Waiver Program, the burden is on the traveler to prove, to the satisfaction of U.S Customs and Border Protection staff, that they are admissible to the U.S. A failure to turn over cell phones, data and passwords to U.S Customs and Border Protection staff on request may prevent a traveler from discharging the burden of proof, leading to a denial of entry to the United States.

Shift in U.S Immigration Policy

The measures, if introduced, will represent a seismic shift in U.S immigration policy at the U.S Border and appear to be an attempt by President Trump to delivery on election promises to strengthen border security. US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told a Senate Committee hearing that, while the powers will assist U.S Customs and Border Protection staff in the execution of their duties, “The vast majority of people will not be questioned in this way”, if the proposals are introduced.

A coalition of 131 organizations, experts and trade associations have reportedly opposed the proposals, on civil liberties grounds.

Interestingly, this is not the first time these proposals have surfaced. In 2015, the Obama administration reportedly considered requiring travelers to the U.S to turn over social media passwords on request. However, the idea was subsequently rejected.

In recent months, there have been reports of travelers to the U.S being compelled to turn over their cell phones and passwords at the U.S Border. Indeed, Iran-born British BBC journalist Ali Hamedani was reportedly detained at Chicago O’Hare airport for two hours earlier this year after a flight from London Heathrow and was compelled to produce his cell phone and password, for inspection by U.S Customs and Border Protection staff.

At the time of writing, it is unknown whether the proposals will be introduced. However, we will endeavor to keep you updated.

Davies Legal

At Davies Legal, we offer a comprehensive range of U.S immigration visa services, tailored to your unique immigration needs. All of our services are funded by way of fixed fee, to ensure you know at the outset precisely how much you will be required to pay. Call now for advice regarding your U.S immigration visa application and for a free, no obligation quote.

Published: 13th April 2017