Donald Trump's travel ban last week was directed at seven majority-Muslim countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Sudan. Trinidad, which sits seven miles off the coast of Venezuela in the Caribbean, is nowhere near any of those nations.
That fact, however, apparently did not stop customs agents from stopping a Trinidadian man — the husband of a prominent reporter — at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport yesterday. Stacy-Marie Ishmael, a former reporter for BuzzFeed and the Financial Times, said on Twitter around 9 p.m. yesterday that her husband had been detained by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. Frighteningly, she claimed Border Patrol agents said her husband could not see a lawyer.
Ishmael declined to speak to New Times last night. At the moment, it's unclear exactly why Border Patrol stopped her husband or if President Trump's recent executive order was cited during the stop.
"CBP says he has 'no right to counsel,'" she wrote. Given the fact that Trinidadians are in no way supposed to be affected by Trump's travel ban, the case could have frightening implications for the way law enforcement officers are imposing the president's immigration restrictions.
My husband, a Trinidadian citizen and a US permanent resident, is currently detained at FLL. CBP says he has "no right to counsel".— stacy-marie ishmael (@s_m_i) February 2, 2017
Shout out to the two immigration lawyers at FLL holding it down on his behalf.— stacy-marie ishmael (@s_m_i) February 2, 2017
One of the lawyers involved said online last night that cops threatened to handcuff Ishmael's legal counsel:
Thankfully, she said her husband was released at 9:15 last night. But she said Border Patrol agents asked her husband what his ethnicity was and "how he got his name."
She then chalked the experience up to #TravelingWhileBrown — that is, experiencing absurd racism when simply trying to fly.
After 3 hours, as of 18:15 PT, he's out. Just spoke to him. He was asked, among other things, about his ethnicity and "how he got his name". https://t.co/xz0LmZsFCV— stacy-marie ishmael (@s_m_i) February 2, 2017
Thanks for the notes. We're no strangers to #travellingwhilebrown and been bracing for this. Hug an immigration lawyer (with their consent).— stacy-marie ishmael (@s_m_i) February 2, 2017
Aloha: We have an amazing lawyer and are v grateful to the folks doing sterling work pro bono at FLL (and elsewhere). Thank you.— stacy-marie ishmael (@s_m_i) February 2, 2017
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These are the lawyers who helped at FLL https://t.co/2FsoPzorhH— stacy-marie ishmael (@s_m_i) February 2, 2017
Many immigration advocates have feared Trump's travel restrictions could expand and eventually affect other majority black, brown, or Muslim communities. At the moment, it's unclear why Ishmael's husband was detained.
New Times has reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol for more information about the incident, but thus far the agency hasn't responded.
Update: A Border Patrol spokesperson declined to comment, adding that doing so would violate the federal Privacy Act of 1974.