Donald Trump Muslim immigration ban: US border patrol 'checking people's Facebook for political views'

Refugees and green card holders detained and interrogated despite legal right to come to the US

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The Independent US

US border agents are checking people’s Facebook pages for their political views before allowing them into the country, an immigration lawyer has claimed. 

Houston-based lawyer Mana Yegani said several green card holders, who have the right to live and work in the US, were detained by border agents at American airports hours after President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning immigration from seven countries in the Middle East and Africa. 

The ban affect travellers with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and also extends to green card holders who are granted authorisation to live and work in the United States, according to a Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman.

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Ms Yegani, who works with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (Alia), said she and her fellow lawyers had worked through the night fielding calls from people with legitimate visa being detained before entering the US or ordered back on flights to the Muslim-majority countries on the list.

In one alleged incident a Sudanese PhD student at Stanford University in California, who has lived in the US for 22 years, was held for five hours in New York and in another a dual Iranian-Canadian citizen was not allowed to board a flight in Ottawa. 

The Alia said border agents were checking the social media accounts of those detained and were interrogating them about their political beliefs before allowing them into the US. 

She said: "These are people that are coming in legally. They have jobs here and they have vehicles here.

"Just because Trump signed something at 6pm yesterday, things are coming to a crashing halt. It's scary."

A spokesman for the Alia told The Independent that they had heard were anecdotal reports of people’s social media accounts being targeted – this tactic had been used by border agents for several years despite doubts over whether it is constitutional. 

It comes as several immigration organisations and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLA) launched a lawsuit in New York on behalf of two Iraqi men, one a former US government worker and the other the husband of a former US security contractor.

It said they had been given visas to enter the US but were detained at JFK airport hours after Mr Trump issued the executive order. 

Meanwhile in Cairo, five Iraqis and one Yemeni passenger were barred from boarding a connecting EgyptAir flight to New York and were redirected to flights back to their home countries, despite holding valid visas. 

Dutch airline KLM said it had similarly refused carriage to seven passengers from Muslim countries because there was “no point taking them to the US”. 

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The order, signed on Holocaust Memorial Day, means Syrian refugees have been banned from entering the country indefinitely – though the White House has said it will consider admitting Syrian Christians – and the entire US refugee programme has been suspended for 120 days. 

Nationals from the six other countries on the list have been banned from entering the US for 90 days. 

The move has been condemned by the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration who said: “The needs of refugees and migrants worldwide have never been greater and the US resettlement program is one of the most important in the world,”

 “The longstanding US policy of welcoming refugees has created a win-win situation: it has saved the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the world who have in turn enriched and strengthened their new societies.”

Additional reporting by Reuters