What Customs and Border Officials Can and Can’t Do

Recent detentions and seizures of phones and other material from travelers to the United States have sparked concern and alarm.

Travelers arrive at the international terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport on March 6th, 2017, in New York City. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A NASA scientist heading home to the United States said he was detained in January at a Houston airport, where Customs and Border Protection officers pressured him for access to his work phone and its potentially sensitive contents.

Last month, CPB agents checked the identification of passengers leaving a domestic flight at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport during a search for an immigrant with a deportation order.

And in October, border agents seized phones and other work-related material from a Canadian photojournalist. They blocked him from entering the U.S. after he refused to unlock the phones, citing his obligation to protect his sources.

These and other recentincidents have revived confusion and alarm over what powers border officials actually have and, perhaps more importantly, how to know when they are overstepping their authority.

The unsettling fact is that border officials have long had broad powers — many people just don’t know about them. Border officials, for instance, have search powers that extend 100 air miles inland from any external boundary of the U.S. That means border agents can stop and question people at fixed checkpoints dozens of miles from U.S. borders. They can also pull over motorists whom they suspect of a crime as part of “roving” border patrol operations.

Sowing even more uneasiness, ambiguity around the agency’s search powers — especially over electronic devices — has persisted for years as courts nationwide address legal challenges raised by travelers, privacy advocates, and civil rights groups.

We’ve dug out answers about the current state-of-play when it comes to border searches, along with links to more detailed resources.

Doesn’t the Fourth Amendment protect us from “unreasonable searches and seizures”?

Yes. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution articulates the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” However, those protections are lessened when entering the country at international terminals at airports, other ports of entry, and subsequently any location that falls within 100 air miles of an external U.S. boundary.

How broad is Customs and Border Protection’s search authority?

According to federal statutes, regulations, and court decisions, CBP officers have the authority to inspect, without a warrant, any person trying to gain entry into the country and their belongings. CBP can also question individuals about their citizenship or immigration status and ask for documents that prove admissibility into the country.

This blanket authority for warrantless, routine searches at a port of entry ends when CBP decides to undertake a more invasive procedure, such as a body cavity search. For these kinds of actions, the CBP official needs to have some level of suspicion that a particular person is engaged in illicit activity, not simply that the individual is trying to enter the U.S.

Does CBP’s search authority cover electronic devices like smartphones and laptops?

Yes. CBP refers to several statutes and regulations in justifying its authority to examine “computers, disks, drives, tapes, mobile phones and other communication devices, cameras, music and other media players, and any other electronic or digital devices.”

According to current CBP policy, officials should search electronic devices with a supervisor in the room, when feasible, and also in front of the person being questioned “unless there are national security, law enforcement, or other operational considerations” that take priority. For instance, if allowing a traveler to witness the search would reveal sensitive law enforcement techniques or compromise an investigation, “it may not be appropriate to allow the individual to be aware of or participate in a border search,” according to a 2009 privacy impact assessment by the Department of Homeland Security.

CBP says it can conduct these searches “with or without” specific suspicion that the person who possesses the items is involved in a crime.

With a supervisor’s sign-off, CBP officers can also seize an electronic device — or a copy of the information on the device — “for a brief, reasonable period of time to perform a thorough border search.” Such seizures typically shouldn’t exceed five days, although officers can apply for extensions in up to one-week increments, according to CBP policy. If a review of the device and its contents does not turn up probable cause for seizing it, CBP says it will destroy the copied information and return the device to its owner.

Can CBP really search my electronic devices without any specific suspicion that I might have committed a crime?

The Supreme Court has not directly ruled on this issue. However, a 2013 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit — one level below the Supreme Court — provides some guidance on potential limits to CBP’s search authority.

In a majority decision, the court affirmed that cursory searches of laptops — such as having travelers turn their devices on and then examining their contents — does not require any specific suspicions about the travelers to justify them.

The court, however, raised the bar for a “forensic examination” of the devices, such as using “computer software to analyze a hard drive.” For these more powerful, intrusive, and comprehensive searches, which could provide access to deleted files and search histories, password-protected information and other private details, border officials must have a “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity — not just a hunch.

As it stands, the 2013 appeals court decision legally applies only to the nine Western states in the Ninth Circuit, including California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. It’s not clear whether CBP has taken the 2013 decision into account more broadly: The last time the agency publicly updated its policy for searching electronic devices was in 2009. CBP is currently reviewing that policy and there is “no specific timeline” for when an updated version might be announced, according to the agency.

“Laptop computers, iPads and the like are simultaneously offices and personal diaries. They contain the most intimate details of our lives,” the court’s decision said. “It is little comfort to assume that the government — for now — does not have the time or resources to seize and search the millions of devices that accompany the millions of travelers who cross our borders. It is the potential unfettered dragnet effect that is troublesome.”

During the 2016 fiscal year, CBP officials conducted 23,877 electronic media searches, a five-fold increase from the previous year. In both the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years, the agency processed more than 380 million arriving travelers.

Am I legally required to disclose the password for my electronic device or social media, if CBP asks for it?

That’s still an unsettled question, according to Liza Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “Until it becomes clear that it’s illegal to do that, they’re going to continue to ask,” she said.

The Fifth Amendment says that no one shall be made to serve as “a witness against himself” in a criminal case. Lower courts, however, have produced differing decisions on how exactly the Fifth Amendment applies to the disclosure of passwords to electronic devices.

Customs officers have the statutory authority “to demand the assistance of any person in making any arrest, search, or seizure authorized by any law enforced or administered by customs officers, if such assistance may be necessary.” That statute has traditionally been invoked by immigration agents to enlist the help of local, state, and other federal law enforcement agencies, according to Nathan Wessler, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. Whether the statute also compels individuals being interrogated by border officials to divulge their passwords has not been directly addressed by a court, Wessler said.

Even with this legal uncertainty, CBP officials have broad leverage to induce travelers to share password information, especially when someone just wants to catch their flight, get home to family, or be allowed to enter the country. “Failure to provide information to assist CBP may result in the detention and/or seizure of the electronic device,” according to a statement provided by CBP.

Travelers who refuse to give up passwords could also be detained for longer periods and have their bags searched more intrusively. Foreign visitors could be turned away at the border, and green card holders could be questioned and challenged about their continued legal status.

“People need to think about their own risks when they are deciding what to do. U.S. citizens may be comfortable doing things that non-citizens aren’t, because of how CBP may react,” Wessler said.

What is some practical advice for protecting my digital information?

Consider which devices you absolutely need to travel with, and which ones you can leave at home. Setting a strong password and encrypting your devices are helpful in protecting your data, but you may still lose access to your devices for undefined periods should border officials decide to seize and examine their contents.

Another option is to leave all of your devices behind and carry a travel-only phone free of most personal information. However, even this approach carries risks. “We also flag the reality that if you go to extreme measures to protect your data at the border, that itself may raise suspicion with border agents,” according to Sophia Cope, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “It’s so hard to tell what a single border agent is going to do.”

The EFF has released an updated guide to data protection options here.

Does CBP recognize any exceptions to what it can examine on electronic devices?

If CBP officials want to search legal documents, attorney work product, or information protected by attorney-client privilege, they may have to follow “special handling procedures,” according to agency policy. If there’s suspicion that the information includes evidence of a crime or otherwise relates to “the jurisdiction of CBP,” the border official must consult the CBP associate/assistant chief counsel before undertaking the search.

As for medical records and journalists’ notes, CBP says its officers will follow relevant federal laws and agency policies in handling them. When asked for more information on these procedures, an agency spokesperson said that CBP has “specific provisions” for dealing with this kind of information, but did not elaborate further. Questions that arise regarding these potentially sensitive materials can be handled by the CBP associate/assistant chief counsel, according to CBP policy. The agency also says that it will protect business or commercial information from “unauthorized disclosure.”

Am I entitled to a lawyer if I’m detained for further questioning by CBP?

No. According to a statement provided by CBP, “All international travelers arriving to the U.S. are subject to CBP processing, and travelers bear the burden of proof to establish that they are clearly eligible to enter the United States. Travelers are not entitled to representation during CBP administrative processing, such as primary and secondary inspection.”

Even so, some immigration lawyers recommend that travelers carry with them the number for a legal aid hotline or a specific lawyer who will be able to help them, should they get detained for further questioning at a port of entry.

“It is good practice to ask to speak to a lawyer,” said Paromita Shah, associate director at the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. “We always encourage people to have a number where their attorney can be reached, so they can explain what is happening and their attorney can try to intervene. It’s definitely true that they may not be able to get into the actual space, but they can certainly intervene.”

Lawyers who fill out this form on behalf of a traveler headed into the U.S. might be allowed to advocate for that individual, although local practices can vary, according to Shah.

Can I record my interaction with CBP officials?

Individuals on public land are allowed to record and photograph CBP operations so long as their actions do not hinder traffic, according to CBP. However, the agency prohibits recording and photography in locations with special security and privacy concerns, including some parts of international airports and other secure port areas.

Does CBP’s power to stop and question people extend beyond the border and ports of entry?

Yes. Federal statutes and regulations empower CBP to conduct warrantless searches for people traveling illegally from another country in any “railway car, aircraft, conveyance, or vehicle” within 100 air miles from “any external boundary” of the country. About two-thirds of the U.S. population live in this zone, including the residents of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Houston, according to the ACLU.

As a result, CBP currently operates 35 checkpoints, where they can stop and question motorists traveling in the U.S. about their immigration status and make “quick observations of what is in plain view” in the vehicle without a warrant, according to the agency. Even at a checkpoint, however, border officials cannot search a vehicle’s contents or its occupants unless they have probable cause of wrongdoing, the agency says. Failing that, CBP officials can ask motorists to allow them to conduct a search, but travelers are not obligated to give consent.

When asked how many people were stopped at CBP checkpoints in recent years, as well as the proportion of those individuals detained for further scrutiny, CBP said they didn’t have the data “on hand” but that the number of people referred for secondary questioning was “minimum.” At the same time, the agency says that checkpoints “have proven to be highly effective tools in halting the flow of illegal traffic into the United States.”

Within 25 miles of any external boundary, CBP has the additional patrol power to enter onto private land, not including dwellings, without a warrant.

Where can CBP set up checkpoints?

CBP chooses checkpoint locations within the 100-mile zone that help “maximize border enforcement while minimizing effects on legitimate traffic,” the agency says.

At airports that fall within the 100-mile zone, CBP can also set up checkpoints next to airport security to screen domestic passengers who are trying to board their flights, according to Chris Rickerd, a policy counsel at the ACLU’s National Political Advocacy Department.

“When you fly out of an airport in the southwestern border, say McAllen, Brownsville, or El Paso, you have Border Patrol standing beside TSA when they’re doing the checks for security. They ask you the same questions as when you’re at a checkpoint. ‘Are you a U.S. citizen?’ They’re essentially doing a brief immigration inquiry in the airport because it’s part of the 100-mile zone,” Rickerd said. “I haven’t seen this at the northern border.”

Can CBP do anything outside of the 100-mile zone?

Yes. Many of CBP’s law enforcement and patrol activities, such as questioning individuals, collecting evidence, and making arrests, are not subject to the 100-mile rule, the agency says. For instance, the geographical limit does not apply to stops in which border agents pull a vehicle over as part of a “roving patrol” and not a fixed checkpoint, according to Rickerd of the ACLU. In these scenarios, border agents need reasonable suspicion that an immigration violation or crime has occurred to justify the stop, Rickerd said.

The ACLU has sued the government multipletimes for data on roving patrol and checkpoint stops. Based on an analysis of records released in response to one of those lawsuits, the ACLU found that CBP officials in Arizona failed “to record any stops that do not lead to an arrest, even when the stop results in a lengthy detention, search, and/or property damage.”

The lack of detailed and easily accessible data poses a challenge to those seeking to hold CBP accountable to its duties.

“On the one hand, we fight so hard for reasonable suspicion to actually exist rather than just the whim of an officer to stop someone, but on the other hand, it’s not a standard with a lot of teeth,” Rickerd said. “The courts would scrutinize it to see if there’s anything impermissible about what’s going on. But if we don’t have data, how do you figure that out?”

This story originally appeared on ProPublica as “Can Customs and Border Officials Search Your Phone? These Are Your Rights” and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

In: psmag.com

Los indocumentados reciben (pocas) ayudas y pagan (bastantes) impuestos, pese a lo dicho por Trump

El discurso del republicano choca con el hecho de que los inmigrantes en situación irregular tienen vetado el acceso a la mayoría de servicios públicos federales.

Imagen: Tres situaciones cotidianas en las que normalmente un indocumentado pagaría impuestos. Getty Images

“Vamos a proteger nuestra Seguridad Social y nuestro Medicare”, exclamó el candidato Donald Trump en su discurso de este miércoles, en el que perfiló en varias ocasiones a los inmigrantes indocumentados como personas que se aprovechan de los servicios públicos estadounidenses.

De hecho, entre sus promesas desde Phoenix, Arizona, el republicano dijo:

“Los que abusan de nuestro sistema del bienestar serán prioritarios para la inmediata expulsión”
Sin embargo, varios estudios demuestran lo contrario para las arcas federales: que los indocumentados pagan bastantes más impuestos que los servicios públicos que reciben. A escala estatal y local, depende del caso.

La mayoría de programas de asistencia federal prohíben a los indocumentados usar sus beneficios y piden prueba de su estatus migratorio. Según Politifact, a diferencia de lo asegurado por Trump, estos inmigrantes no tienen acceso:

  • ni al programa de alimentos food stamps,
  • ni a ayudas en efectivo,
  • ni al programa para personas de bajos recursos Medicaid,
  • ni a los beneficios de Obamacare.

De hecho, un cálculo hecho por la Seguridad Social en 2013 dice que los indocumentados reciben servicios de esta institución por valor de 1,000 millones de dólares, pero aportan en impuestos 13 veces más que eso.

Los indocumentados viven en la sombra para las autoridades migratorias, pero no para las fiscales.

Elisabeth, por ejemplo, tiene 34 años, trabaja en el campo en el sur de Florida y vive en un cuarto rentado por 450 dólares con sus tres hijos. Desde hace cinco años, tiene un número de identificación fiscal y, con él, visita una vez al año a un contador para pagar sus impuestos.

Sí, es indocumentada y paga impuestos. Eso Trump lo omitió en su más de una hora de discurso. Así es cómo contribuyen los indocumentados a las arcas públicas:

Cuando presentan sus impuestos

Como el resto de inmigrantes y ciudadanos, una parte de ellos declara sus impuestos al acabar el año.

A escala estatal, se recaudan unos 1,100 millones de dólares en este concepto cada año, según The Institute on Taxation.

A escala federal, el Consejo Nacional de la Raza calculó en 2008 que hasta tres cuartos de los indocumentados pagan impuestos sobre sus ingresos anuales.

Y, pese a que viven sin autorización en Estados Unidos, la agencia federal que recauda los impuestos (IRS) lo admite. De hecho, en 1997, creó un número de identificación fiscal para quienes no tienen permiso de trabajo: el ITIN. Hay unos tres millones de contribuyentes que pagan sus impuestos nacionales así.

Según el IRS, contribuyen a las arcas públicas con unos 9,000 millones de dólares al año. El 80% de ellos son latinos y la mayoría cobran muy por debajo de la media nacional: menos de 25,000 dólares al año.

Sin embargo, no todos pagan sus impuestos a través del número ITIN. También hay quien usa números de seguro social (SNN) caducados o falsos.

Cuando reciben su salario

Y es así, con los números de seguro social caducados o falsos, cómo los indocumentados también contribuyen (ilícitamente) a los presupuestos públicos: a través de las nóminas (paychecks).

Esos números de seguro social pueden ser viejos (de cuando no existía el ITIN), caducados (si el indocumentado entró con un permiso temporal y se quedó ilegalmente), prestados (amigos que dejan el número) o directamente robados.

Trump subrayó ese incumplimiento de la ley y dijo sobre el sistema de verificación de números de seguro social:

“Vamos a asegurar que e-verify se usa en su máxima capacidad y que el Congreso expanda esta ley”

Cada año, a través de esas nóminas con deducciones, se recaudan al menos 7,000 millones para la Seguridad Social y 1,500 millones para Medicare, el programa sanitario para la gente mayor, según el cálculo de La Raza en 2012.

Otro estimado, hecho por la misma Seguridad Social en 2013, elevaba la contribución hasta 13,000 millones gracias a 3.1 millones de indocumentados con esos números.

Pero, en cambio, esos inmigrantes solo recibieron servicios de la Seguridad Social por valor de 1,000 millones, ya que como indocumentados no pueden solicitar la mayoría de prestaciones.

De hecho, este mismo año, el comisionado del IRS, John Koskinen, admitió en el Congreso que su agencia recauda dinero gracias a los números de seguro social falso… y que eran contribuciones necesarias:

“Son extranjeros indocumentados. Pagan sus impuestos. Es del interés de todos que sigan pagando los impuestos que deben”.

Cuando pagan la vivienda

Las autoridades locales recaudan impuestos de propiedad, y los indocumentados también los pagan. A través de la vivienda, pagan millones en impuestos.

Directamente, aquellos que son propietarios de sus casas y que abonan una media del 1% del valor del inmueble cada año.

O lo pagan indirectamente, a través de la renta que entregan al propietario, quien suele incluir la mitad del impuesto de propiedad en las sumas que pagan los inquilinos.

Los indocumentados contribuyen con cerca de 3,600 millones de dólares al año en este concepto, según The Institute on Taxation.

Cuando compran el almuerzo

Bueno, el almuerzo, el café, unos zapatos o una nevera. Como cualquier ciudadano, inmigrante o incluso turista, los indocumentados pagan impuestos cuando compran productos o consumen servicios en Estados Unidos.

Los estados, los condados y los municipios, que suelen recaudar esos impuestos, consiguen hasta 7,000 millones de dólares al año gracias a las compras que realizan los indocumentados, según The Institute on Taxation.

Imagen: http://www.univision.com/noticias/impuestos/los-indocumentados-reciben-pocas-ayudas-y-pagan-bastantes-impuestos-pese-a-lo-dicho-por-trump

Cuando se inscriben en la universidad

“La inscripción de estudiantes indocumentados puede llevar a la creación de más empleos, no solo entre profesores, sino también en cualquier servicio vinculado a la educación”, decía un estudio sobre el impacto económico de los inmigrantes irregulares en el Journal of Sociology en 2012.

En efecto, más allá de la creación de empleos, los indocumentados financian las universidades públicas en las que se inscriben, como la University of Texas o University of California.

El grupo Educator for Fair Consideration calcula que entre 7,000 y 13,000 indocumentados estudian cada año en la universidad.

Actualmente hay un mínimo de 18 estados que permiten que estos estudiantes paguen la matrícula en universidades públicas al mismo precio que un alumno residente en el estado. En el resto, deben pagar al (astronómico) precio de estudiante internacional.

Cuando se sacan la licencia de manejo

Eso solo pasa en 12 estados y el Distrito de Columbia, donde hay legislación que les permite sacarse la licencia de manejar con una prueba de domicilio, un número ITIN o un documento similar.

En California, el estado con más inmigrantes en estatus irregular, unos 605,000 indocumentados lograron licencia de manejar en 2015, el primer año en que estuvo en vigor la ley que se lo permite.

  • PROS Y CONTRAS >> Los expertos en fiscalidad que defienden una reforma migratoria aseguran que legalizar a los cerca de 11 millones de indocumentados que hay en Estados Unidos inyectaría miles de millones al año en impuestos, porque los deberían pagar todos, recibirían mejores salarios y consumirían más. Sin embargo, los grupos más críticos con la inmigración ilegal se quejan del uso que hacen de servicios públicos como la educación, la sanidad y la infraestructura. Uno de esos grupos es Center for Inmigration Studies, a favor de reducir la población inmigrante, y que Donald Trump citó en su discurso migratorio de Arizona. El estudio que el republicano mencionóasegura que un 62% de los hogares liderados por un indocumentado tiene acceso a ayudas públicas, pero lo no detalla es que en esas casas suele haber miembros (especialmente hijos) que sí son residentes o ciudadanos.

En: univision

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