Chaos at the Airport: NOT the Fault of CBP, ICE, or USCIS!

As the headlines pour in from all over the world with stories of the utter chaos, unfairness, and injustice triggered by President Trump’s poorly-drafted, foolishly-deployed immigration executive orders, as always it is the “human interest” angle which most captures our hearts and minds.  Seeing the Muslim permanent resident wife of a U.S. citizen finally released and hearing the JFK crowd cheer is indeed stirring…but the implications being made against the brave men and women responsible for protecting our airports and borders distort the reality of the situation.

As you have read, while the heads of every single federal agency tasked with some aspect of enforcement of the executive order have publicly stated that they had no advance notice of the rules, the White House, via its shrill-voiced official spokesman and web-weaving purveyors of “alternative facts” continue to insist that everyone was briefed, that everything is unfolding perfectly, etc.  But even Trump’s appointee to head the Department of Homeland Security had not been briefed on the maneuver when he began seeing the headlines.

Last night, one of the more pragmatic members of the Trump team stated that of the hundreds of thousands of persons who had entered the U.S. in the past 24 hours, only 109 had been affected by the order.  Even if that number is correct (and immigration attorney volunteers nationwide are laughing at the figure), it isn’t about how many people were inconvenienced…it’s about who we are as a nation and HOW we exercise changes in policies on a planet where the world looks to us as an example of free democracy and respect for the rule of law.

The administration’s hollow response that the order was implemented without warning because otherwise the terrorists would flood into the U.S. days prior to its effect is just plain silly:  the seven nations identified on the order hardly represent nations which have presented meaningful terrorist threats to the U.S. homeland.  In fact, if you recall the nationalities of those responsible for the horror of September 11th, they came from countries like Saudi Arabia…countries where U.S. business interests, including those affiliated with the new Commander in Chief’s business holdings, are expansive.

As a former U.S. consular officer who has worked with and trained border officers in years past, my heart goes out to them.  They are, perhaps, the greatest victims of this debacle and I can only imagine the morale when your own leadership in Washington has no idea how to implement these radical changes in U.S. policy.  Folks: the U.S. officers at the airport are not the “bad guys” nor are they abusing their powers; they are as confused and unprepared for all of this as the rest of us.  Fortunately for all of us, the U.S. judicial system and our deeply rooted sense of justice as a nation is provoking a strong response from all corners of America and from our closest allies abroad.   We WILL work through this, but what an avoidable mess has been levied upon the world by this new American administration.

I remember seeing a great sign years ago at a DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) office somewhere in Florida: “Your failure to plan does NOT constitute MY emergency!”  And that is exactly what has happened here, in the most perverse of forms:  the global disruption of travel to the U.S. based upon a fundamental ignorance of how policy changes must be implemented.   The emotional and financial costs to those affected or potentially affected (because that latter figure most CERTAINLY is higher than “109”) is immeasurable, as is the economic cost to America enterprises affected by the needless interruption in business travel.  But let us remember that the man or woman to whom you are handing your passport or green card is as much a victim of this mess as the rest of us…