Press Releases

DelBene Demands Answers after Rebuff at SeaTac Airport

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Washington, DC, January 29, 2017 | comments

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) today wrote to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seeking an explanation for why so little information was communicated to members of Congress during her visit to Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) on Saturday.

DelBene went to the airport on Jan. 28, after learning individuals traveling to Washington with visas were detained at the airport and denied entry into the United States as a result of President Trump’s executive order.

“I personally went to Sea-Tac and made numerous attempts to engage with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials in order to better understand the implementation of this Executive Order and the scope of issues and people affected,” DelBene wrote. “As a Member of Congress with the responsibility to serve my constituents and their families as they interact with taxpayer-funded federal agencies like CBP, and as all my attempts to get basic information about detainees at Sea-Tac were rebuffed the evening of January 28, 2017, I submit these written questions and request your prompt reply.”

Full text of the letter follows:

Kevin McAleenan

Acting Commissioner, CBP

1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20229

Dear Acting Commissioner McAleenan:

It came to my attention that individuals traveling to Washington State via Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) with valid visas were detained at Sea-Tac and denied entry into the United States as a result of the Executive Order that was issued by President Trump on January 27, 2017. Upon learning this information, I personally went to Sea-Tac and made numerous attempts to engage with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials in order to better understand the implementation of this Executive Order and the scope of issues and people affected. As a Member of Congress with the responsibility to serve my constituents and their families as they interact with taxpayer-funded federal agencies like CBP, and as all my attempts to get basic information about detainees at Sea-Tac were rebuffed the evening of January 28, 2017, I submit these written questions and request your prompt reply.

Please provide the following information:

  • Any and all guidance, directives, and/or policies from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the White House, and/or the Department of State regarding the implementation of Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Entry into the United States by Foreign Nationals;”
  • Any and all guidance to CBP on how to deal with visa holders already en route. If no such guidance was issued, what steps were taken to reduce the confusion and chaos that has occurred;
  • How the Executive Order is being interpreted and implemented for current visa holders, both immigrant and non-immigrant, seeking entry into the United States, visa applicants, LPRs, dual citizens, United States citizens, asylum seekers, and to any other individuals from the seven designated countries in the Executive Order applying for or renewing any of the immigration benefits listed above or any other immigration benefit;
  • How many individuals were detained at Sea-Tac between January 28, 2017 and January 29, 2017, in addition to the nationalities, immigration status, and final disposition of those individuals; 
  • How many individuals arriving at Sea-Tac were denied entry to the United States between January 28, 2017 and January 29, 2017, in addition to the nationalities and immigration status of those individuals.  
  • How long it took for individuals being detained to speak with attorneys, and any policies currently in place regarding allowing detainees access to counsel, notwithstanding the lack of a right to counsel for non-citizens under the INA;
  • What steps were taken by officials at Sea-Tac following the order by US District Judge Ann Donnelly barring deportation of US visa holders and those with approved refugee applications;
  • What policies and procedures are being put in place at Sea-Tac to provide clarity and due process to all travelers and their families with respect to the Order from this point forward;
  • What effect will the Order have on those individuals previously mentioned in the immediate future; and
  • Why the Administration did not offer better guidance to CBP personnel on how to execute the Order.

I also request that you promptly allow attorneys into the secondary processing area to permit access to counsel for any individuals held going forward.

Thank you for your prompt reply to the above questions.

Sincerely,

Suzan DelBene

Member of Congress

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