Again, I will begin this comment with an explanation to a few of my highly respected and well meaning friends who have been asking me why so many of my observations about immigration are focused on Donald Trump. Obviously, Trump does not personally write every USCIS guidance memo, adjudicate every petition or decide every Immigration Court case.

In my experience at least, many, if not the great majority of immigration officials (in my practice, chiefly USCIS petition adjudicators) are still doing their jobs fairly and objectively (i.e. issuing approval notices!), without any noticeable interference from the top.

To be sure, America is not yet at the stage of countries such as Russia, North Korea, or Hungary (whose right wing government - much admired by some of Trump's white nationalist supporters - is destroying democracy even as it builds a wall against African and Middle Eastern immigrants and engages in a nationwide propaganda campaign against a well-known Jewish financier, George Soros).

But, just as no serious observer could get very far in writing about any aspect of government in the above three countries without mentioning Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, or Viktor Orban, it is becoming increasingly difficult to write about any aspect of administration or policy in America today without mentioning America's president.

This certainly applies to immigration policy as much as, if not even more than any other issue, given the prominence that Trump has given to this area of governance both as a candidate and as the nation's chief executive - and the fact that immigration law is the province of the federal government in any administration.

Moreover, many of the attempts to limit the rights of immigrants in Donald Trump's America constitute a clear and present danger to the most basic democratic rights of American citizens as well - including the right to free speech.

In an April 20 piece in The Guardian, Carrie DeCell, a staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute, writes about the highly dangerous and disturbing surveillance that the Trump administration is conducting over the social media, cell phone messages and other communications of visa applicants from around the world, and the denial of visas or entry to people who have or might have views which are opposed to Trump's views on various issues.

The above article lists a number of recent incidents where civil rights (or in one case a trans rights) activists, especially those with Muslim names (though coming from countries not on the Muslim country banned list) were denied visas or turned back upon entry for unexplained reasons.

Harassment at points of entry to the US has not been limited to foreign citizens. DeCell writes:

"American activists, too, have confronted increased government scrutiny at the border. Also this month, border agents interrogated the journalist and civil rights advocate Shaun King upon his return from a family trip to Cairo. Along with his exhausted wife and children, King fielded questions about his reasons for traveling to Egypt and his role in the Black Lives Matter movement. King reported that the officer who questioned him had 'clearly been reading my tweets and knew all about me.'"

The same article also mentions instances of non-citizen activists in the US who have been detained or threatened with deportation for speaking out against Trump's immigration policies. It continues:

"These recent
incidents are part of a broader government scheme to wield immigration authority to since activists both within and beyond US borders. CBP and ICE agents conduct suspicionless searches of travelers' electronic devices - including their text messages, emails, social media posts and photographs - when they cross the US border. Under the rubric of 'extreme vetting', the administration now plans to require immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants to surrender their social media handles, including pseudonyms and aliases, in connection with their applications."

The article concludes:

"These extreme vetting measures threaten to chill the expressive and associative activities of any individual who may seek to enter or remain in the United States...

Just as the travel ban effectively excludes individuals from this country on the basis of their religion, extreme vetting explicitly excludes individuals from this country on the basis of their statements and beliefs."

In effect, immigration and visa officials are becoming something similar to an American thought police. There is a word for this. It is known as "fascism".

Roger Algase
Attorney at Law