How to: Know-your-rights when you enter the USA

Over the past several weeks more and more people have been detained at US airports in the wake of the Muslim ban. The radical immigration backlash is impacting everyone including American citizens and visa holders.

1312So far Muhammad Ali’s son was detained and asked if he was a Muslim at an airport,

2400Mem Fox, a famous Australian children´s author, who is 70 years old was shut in a room for almost two hours and interrogated when entering the USA for a conference,

8c1c6a1b-b3d1-41df-b3f4-adfdb456de16British Muslim school teacher, Juhel Miah, taking his class on a school trip to the USA was not permitted to travel,

ibtihaj-muhammadIbtihaj Muhammad, a bronze medalist in Rio with the U.S. women’s saber team was questioned,

1487256550639-attachment-1and a NASA scientist, Sidd Bikkannavar´s phone was siezed.

This leaves us all wondering what our reentries will be like to the United States and how we might be able to help prepare others as they are trying to enter as visitors. Here are some tips on things to keep in mind as you are preparing to travel.

Unlocking phones: Searching technology devices at the border is now legal and common practice. A report from the New York Times, explains that while Border agents cannot force you to unlock your phones, they can sieze your phones and make your life hell if you do not comply. If you miss a flight, that will not be refunded.

Being pressured to give social media passwords: You do not have to give border agents your social media passwords. However, new policies are being considered that might make this possible. It is probable that when your phone is siezed, border agents will look through social media devices installed on the phone.

Protecting your devices: Wired has recommended encypting hard drives, deleting any accounts you do not want searchable on your phone or computer in case they are seized, or powering devices down before you cross the border.

Safety plan: When travelling make sure friends and family have your travel itinerary. Copy key numbers down in case your phone is siezed. Have a list of lawyers so that if you are detained you have a number to call (ACLU legal services could be an option).

Anti-Muslim discrimination at the airpot: The ACLU has a Know-Your-Rights packet on facing anti-Muslim discrimination when you are entering the USA. If you are concerned your rights have been violated, read this document and contact the ACLU in your state.

File a complaint: Report abuses at the airport to the ACLU. Homeland Security. Complaints can be filed here around discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability; violation of rights while in immigration detention or as a subject of immigration enforcement; and discrimination or inappropriate questioning related to entry into the United States amongst other civil rights violations. Here is where to file a complaint to US Customs and Border Protection. If you are not from the United States and have been detained and harrassed at the airpot, also file a complaint with your country´s Embassy in the USA and/or the United States embassy in your home country.

Contact the media: If you have been harrassed detained and questioned at a US airport, tell your story. It is important that attention is drawn to this abusive behaviour. Contact your local or national media in order to raise awareness around potential rights violations.

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All ARO articles are written by Americans resisting overseas, for Americans resisting overseas. If you have action ideas you want to share, contact

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