Crowdsourcing Journalistic Pressure On Congress To Get Answers About DHS's Treatment Of US Citizens At The Border

from the join-in dept

A few weeks ago, we were among many who were stunned to hear the story of On the Media producer Sarah Abdurrahman on the show about how she, her family, and a bunch of friends were all detained at the Canadian/American border by US Customs and Border Patrol agents (CBP) in two different locations. Every single one of the people detained were American citizens, and they were all treated absolutely horribly. Many had their electronics confiscated, and they were kept in freezing conditions without any explanation or recourse. One man was taken away from his family, put in a cell, and then his family was told that "an agency" was coming to deal with him, and they were told nothing further (only later to find out it was because of an unpaid ticket from years ago.

Perhaps even more horrifying than the treatment that they all went through was the complete lack of response to any and all journalistic questions about this. The DHS basically refused to return any calls and just ignored the matter. Abdurrahman was able to get one person from one of the border crossings on the phone at one point, and was basically told that he wasn't going to tell her anything. The sheer lack of accountability, concern or transparency was both shocking and depressing. Since then, On the Media has continued to try to get answers... and has come up empty. Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol appear to be taking the position that maybe if they ignore this situation it'll go away.

Not likely.

In talking their situation over with some experts, the OTM team was told that the way to deal with this was to get Congress to hold DHS accountable, and the way to do that is to have constituents of Representatives who have oversight authority concerning DHS to call their Reps and demand answers. OTM has tried calling their own Reps without much luck, so they've instead decided to crowdsource the journalistic effort. They're asking basically all of their listeners to put on their journalist hats, and to call Congress, asking some specific questions. If that listener happens to be represented by someone on a DHS oversight committee, it connects you directly to that office. Otherwise, they'll pick randomly from the list (of course, non-constituent calls tend to have less sway with Congress).

To make this even easier, they've built a tool to make it easy to call Congress, complete with the list of questions they'd like you to ask and a form to fill out the answers. Oh, and they've made the whole thing embeddable. It's at the bottom of this post. For those who think this doesn't have an impact, you should never underestimate the power of phone calls to your Representatives. They tend to have significantly more influence that most people expect.
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Filed Under: border patrol, cbp, crowdsourcing, customs and border patrol, homeland security, journalism, on the media

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  1. identicon
    Anon, 29 Oct 2013 @ 10:35am

    Could be Worse

    At least they are US citizens, and will eventually get due process and allowed into the USA.

    The paranoid and "do it our way" BPA also enforces a weird policy that has gotten worrse since 9/11. While most other countries are only interested in whether you are a recent or habitual criminal, or if you have been convicted of a major serious crime - but the USA will ban almost anyone, based even on a juvenile conviction that happened long ago.

    We had a fellow where I worked in Canada who was suddenly barred due to a juvenile car theft conviction when he was 17 - he was barred at age 53 while on a business trip. Another guy, in his 30's was turned back while trying to go to Disneyland with his wife and two small kids. Apparently he was arrested at age 15 when his mother found drugs in his room and called the cops. Canada has started to retaliate by denying entry to anyone with a DUI record, since that's considered a felony in Canada.

    As I said, at least an American will eventually get in. A visitor who says anything except "yes, sir", or a visitor who is not totally cooperative, does not provide laptop or phone passwords, etc. - will be barred from entry at the whim of the agent.

    Google the Washington state border guard who got into a road rage incident with a visiting Canadian. He appeared to have a major hate on for visitors - after the incident, his justification why he should not be fired was that he was a stellar performer - he'd barred more Canadians from entry into Washington state than any other Border officer.

    The USA needs to put some sanity into the customs process... oh, and the rest of government.

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