Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth are calling for an independent investigation into the implementation of President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on immigration.
Trump’s order halts all refugee resettlement into the U.S. for 120 days, imposes an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria, and suspends entry of immigrants from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen - all Muslim-majority nations - for 90 days.
In response, protests broke out at airports across the country this weekend, including at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, where more than a dozen people were released late Saturday after being detained.
“The chaotic execution of this [Executive Order]… raises serious concerns in regard to whether taxpayer dollars were efficiently and effectively spent, rather than wasted on unwarranted and unjust detentions of lawful permanent residents and others who posed no security threat, and who had already been authorized by the United States Government to enter our country,” Durbin and Duckworth wrote in a letter to Department of Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth.
“We are deeply concerned by [Custom and Border Protection’s] failure to respond to time-sensitive Congressional oversight inquiries and allegations that the agency refused to permit attorneys to meet with detained [lawful permanent residents] at O’Hare and other airports across the country,” the senators added.
In their letter to Roth, Durbin and Duckworth pushed for an investigation into how the Department of Homeland Security and the Custom and Border Protection prepared to implement Trump’s executive order and what guidance those agencies provided to the White House during the order’s development.
The Illinois senators are also pushing an investigation into the guidance and training provided to CBP employees to ensure that the order was implemented in accordance with the constitutional rights of detainees. Additionally, Duckworth and Durbin’s letter seeks to investigate how DHS and CBP determined which information to share publicly and whether they kept a list of all detained individuals.
On Saturday, a federal judge in Brooklyn issued an emergency order temporarily barring the U.S. from deporting people from the seven countries included in Trump’s travel ban. The judge said travelers who had been detained had a strong argument that their legal rights had been violated.
In their letter, Durbin and Duckworth pushed for an investigation into whether CBP officers were informed of court orders and given instructions on how to comply with them, whether CBP violated any court order, and what complaints about violations of court orders have been received and how they were resolved.
DHS issued a statement early Sunday that said the court ruling would not affect the overall implementation of Trump’s order, claiming it affected a relatively small number of travelers who were inconvenienced by security procedures upon their return. Trump aides insist the judgment has little impact.
“The United States Constitution means little if law enforcement agents disregard it, or if Americans are unwilling to defend its principles and respect foundational constitutional rights, from due process to equal protection under the law," the senators wrote. "The American people are relying on your independent investigators to serve as a check against a powerful law enforcement agency that may be violating the civil rights of [legal permanent residents] and operating in violation of the law."
Durbin and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee also sent a letter Monday to Acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates Monday demanding answers about the U.S. Department of Justice's role in reviewing Trump's executive order.
President Trump has insisted that his order is not a blanket ban on Muslims. On Monday, the Republican downplayed the order's impact, slamming New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a vocal opponent of the move.
"Only 109 of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning," Trump tweeted. "Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outages, protesters and the tears of Senator Schumer. [Department of Homeland Security] Secretary Kelly said that all is going well with very few problems."
"MAKE AMERICA SAFE AGAIN," Trump added.