Muslim American woman believes shift in immigration policy leading to changes behind scenes at airports

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SEA-TAC INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Wash. — Travelers at Sea-Tac reacted Monday to President Donald Trump’s new, revised travel ban that is to take effect on March 16.

The new version imposes a 90-day ban on the issuance of new visas for citizens of six majority-Muslim nations; it does not affect those who hold current visas. It also makes clear that lawful permanent residents are excluded from ban. In addition, the nation’s refu­gee program will be suspended for 120 days.

But some travelers say the screening process is noticeably different behind the scenes since Trump announced his first travel ban.

Hakima Shirar believes the shift in immigration policy is leading to changes on how even Muslim Americans are treated at airports.

“It feels I don’t belong here,” Shirar said.

After returning from a trip to Kenya, Shirar says federal agents singled her out at Sea-Tac on Monday, something she says has never happened before.

“They ask me where I am from, how long I been there, and phone number over there where I work,” Shirar said.

Shirar is a naturalized US citizen. She first came to the country 20 years ago as a refugee from Somalia.

Somalia is one of the countries whose people will still be temporarily banned under Trump’s new executive order.

“The real life consequences of this ban are yet to be seen,” CAIR spokesperson Arsalan Bukhari said.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is still against the ban in any form.

“It seems clearly based on prejudice, based on campaign promises that was made for many, many months and these countries are Muslim-majority countries,” Bukhari said.

The Trump administration insists it’s not a Muslim ban and some travelers agree.

“His job is to protect me as an American citizen and all the others,” Timothy Bowman said.

Bowman says he's in favor of a temporary ban on any country if it's for national security.

But for Shirar, it’s personal. Although she holds an American passport, she says she’s never felt so unwelcome in her own home.

US Customs and Border Protection says they cannot talk about Shirar's case due to privacy issues. In general however they say individuals arriving to the US is subject to routine questioning even if they are American citizens

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection knows how important the travel and tourism industry is to the U.S. economy and remains committed to facilitating lawful travel to the United States. CBP officers are thoroughly trained on admissibility factors and the Immigration and Nationality Act which broadly governs the admissibility and inadmissibility of travelers into the United States.

As the agency charged with determining admissibility of aliens at ports of entry, under U.S. immigration law [Section 291 of the INA [8 USC 1361] applicants for admission bear the burden of proof to establish that they are clearly eligible to enter the United States. In order to demonstrate that they are admissible, the applicant must overcome ALL grounds of inadmissibility.

INA § 212(a) lists more than 60 grounds of inadmissibility divided into several major categories, including health-related grounds, criminality, security reasons, public charge, labor certification, illegal entrants and immigration violations, documentation requirements, and miscellaneous grounds.

CBP is committed to the fair, impartial and respectful treatment of all members of the trade and traveling public, and has memorialized its commitment to nondiscrimination in existing policies, including the February 2014 CBP Policy on Nondiscrimination in Law Enforcement Activities and all other Administered Programs. This policy prohibits the consideration of race or ethnicity in law enforcement, investigation, and screening activities, in all but the most exceptional circumstances. CBP’s Standards of Conduct further highlights CBP’s prohibition on bias-motivated conduct and explicitly requires that “Employees will not act or fail to act on an official matter in a manner which improperly takes into consideration an individual’s race, color, age, sexual orientation, religion, sex, national origin, or disability, union membership, or union activities.”