U.S. law enforcement and security agencies have been secretly tracking immigration activists as well as lawyers and journalists involved with the topic at the southern border, according to reports that broke earlier this month. Approximately 59 people listed in a secret and possibly illegal database kept by the government were harassed at the U.S.-Mexico border and sometimes denied entry.
A new report suggest that the efforts go beyond that one list. An additional four U.S. immigration attorneys and a journalist have been stopped and questioned as well as threatened with arrest if they would not provide information and unlock their phones, according to a new report from NBC News.
According to claims by those detained, agents have identified themselves as focused on criminal and terrorism cases, asked about contacts—which, for the lawyers at least, could well be covered by attorney-client privilege—told to unlock their phones, and threatened with arrest if not cooperative.
A spokesperson from Customs and Border Protection said the Department of Homeland Security inspector general was investigating the previous report about the database. A statement about the new reports included the following: “One thing this case is highlighting is the limited rights that individuals have in the border environment. That said, trying to dig into individuals’ political views is wildly inappropriate and would absolutely violate the Constitution, especially for United States citizens.”
A separate report says that the Trump administration has plans to close many U.S. offices that handle legal immigration, according to the New York Times. Supposedly, the international division of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which operates in 20 countries, will shut down. The agency, mostly funded by application fees and not tax dollars, has focused in the past on green card issuance and naturalization. A spokesperson for the agency told the Times that resources would be reallocated to address a backlog of asylum claims.