Late last month, Sidd Bikkannavar, a NASA engineer and a U.S.-born citizen, was returning from vacation in Chile when he was asked by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Houston to turn over his phone and provide his PIN—even though he (and his parents) weren’t from any of the seven countries listed in Trump’s executive order. This was legal.
On the subject, CNN recently ran an article informing travelers to America—including green card holders and U.S. citizens—of their rights at the border. You might be surprised at the answers:
Can your laptop, phone or other electronic device be searched?
Yes. “According to CBP, your devices could be searched for many reasons, including incomplete travel documents or because your name matches a person of interest. It also could be a random search. If you decline to hand over your password here are the implications:”
If you’re a foreign national:
CBP can deny you entry.
If you’re a green card holder:
“Officers at the border cannot make you sign a form that would relinquish your permanent resident status.” According to Danielle Rizzo of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, “in most cases, legal permanent residents have a right to a hearing before an immigration judge. So you would likely be allowed back into the country to wait until that hearing.”
If you’re a US citizen:
“You cannot be denied entry into the United States, but you might be delayed. For citizens, and likely for many green card holders, border agents can inconvenience you, but eventually, they’re going to have to let you back into the country.”
“There’s a risk you could be held, detained…for hours in an unpleasant, windowless secondary inspection room.”
“There’s also a chance that authorities will seize your phone or laptop, he says, adding that he’s seen cases in which phones were held for months.”
How can you safeguard your device when traveling internationally?
The article says, “If you don’t want it searched, don’t carry it across the border.” You can also upload your data to a secure server in the cloud.
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