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Canadians Fear Privacy Violations at U.S. Border

By William Vogeler, Esq. on February 14, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

While President Trump looks for another way to ban immigrants from Muslim countries and proceeds to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, a less visible border battle is playing out with Canada.

Border Patrol agents have been stopping Canadians, questioning them about their religion and national origin, and then demanding access to their phones. As part of the president's ban against immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations, agents have been screening Muslims at the borders between Canada and the United States.

Last weekend, a Muslim woman from Quebec reported that she was interrogated at the Vermont border and forced to hand over her phone and unlock it. Agents then refused to let her into the country. An Iranian-born journalist was detained last month at Chicago's O'Hare airport, where agents forced him to unlock his phone and then inspected his Twitter account.

Agents Demanding Phones

Marc Holland, Canada's parliamentary secretary to the public safety minister, spoke out against the border tactics.

"We don't think that Canadians' privacy should be compromised," he told reporters Friday. "We don't think that Canadians should be put in a position ever where they are forced to disclose information in a way about their social networks and things of this nature."

Earlier in the week, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said that visa applicants could be asked to hand over their passwords for their social media accounts. He said it could be part of the Trump administration's extreme vetting effort, which included orders banning immigrants from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.

Give Us Your Passwords

"We may want to get on their social media, with passwords," Kelly said. "It's very hard to truly vet these people in these countries, the seven countries. But if they come in, we want to say, what websites do they visit, and give us your passwords. So we can see what they do on the internet."

Kelly said anyone who refused to cooperate would be denied entry to the U.S. He said the administration had made no decision, but tighter screening was on its way. All of this news, of course, is keeping immigration lawyers busy.

In the meantime, Trump reportedly may not appeal the court decisions stopping his immigrant ban. Instead, he is considering new orders.

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