aNewDomain — Pres. Donald Trump today scolded reporters for mischaracterising his latest executive order as a “Muslim ban.”
He appears to have a point, according to a detainee tracking sheet aNewDomain obtained this morning.
Trump’s order ostensibly banned citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, true. But as you can see from document, embedded below, the vast majority of detainees came from just one nation: Iran.
Of 230 detainees (of 280) that lawyers so far have linked to specific nations in the tracking sheet, 225 — that’s 98.8 percent — were Iranian. (The other five came from these five nations: Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Sudan and, strangely, Japan.)
It’s a bizarre new wrinkle to the immigration ban controversy, which this weekend had tens of thousands of Americans protesting at the nation’s airports and three federal judges issuing orders to temporarily curtail it.
And it raises some serious questions:
Why did U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials focus almost all their efforts in questioning incoming travelers from one nation?
Who orchestrated that focused effort on Iranians — and why? And who gave CBP the orders to do it.
We await comment on this development from White House and Department of Homeland Security officials. Check out the document below.
US Entry Tracking Challenges: Immigration Ban Traveler List uploaded by Gina Smith on Scribd
Why did customs focus primarily on Iranian travelers?
Iran is an unusual choice for custom officials to crack down on for this reason: Its citizens have never committed an act of terrorism against Americans on US shores.
Aside from the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979-1980 — and even considering that Iran supplied some of the explosives Iraqi insurgents used against Americans after the War in Iraq — Iran is rarely if ever viewed as a domestic terrorism threat.
Also, Iran is no friend of ISIS. The country provides military advisors to the government of Iraq to help it defeat ISIS. It’s provided a great deal of military assistance to the Kurds, who are leading the fight against ISIS in the Middle East.
That’s worth noting, especially when you consider fully wo days of comments from Trump and other White House officials who repeatedly brought up words like “terror,” “Syria,” “Libya” and “Isis” in their collective defense of the immigration ban.
In a blustery interview on Sunday morning’s Meet the Press, Reince Priebus sharply rebuffed a host’s questions regarding the wisdom of stopping Green Card holders, individuals who already have passed through a long and detailed vetting process by US immigration officials.
“If someone is going back and forth between Libya all the time, or Syria,” he said, “we have a right to look at that.”
It isn’t clear why or how Custom and Border Control (CBD) officials determined they should stop Iranians almost exclusively.
According to a source close to the CBD, there was no written directive to focus detainment efforts at the border on just those travelers arriving from Iran. Trump’s executive order, as signed on Saturday, doesn’t dwell on that country. In fact, most of its language is directed at Syria.
Two insiders we contacted — both requested anonymity — suggested that CBD was briefed well in advance of other immigration officials as they seemed to have their sights focused on certain travelers over others from the start.
But why? Trump’s intense feelings for the US Iran nuclear deal are well known. Could he be trying to start a fight? Or looking for someone in particular?
The lawyers’ descriptions of detainee circumstances in the tracking document above makes the latter proposition unlikely.
We have as yet not been able to reach the CBD or Homeland Security for comments on the matter.
For aNewDomain, I’m Gina Smith.
This story is now being updated. Jan. 30, 2017, 8:46 PM ET