The rules for international travel have become more stringent over the past several years. Since 9/11, security measures have been enhanced in the name of safety. For example, in the past, U.S. citizens didn't need a passport to visit Mexico or Canada and now they do.
Now, some people entering the U.S. are being asked to hand over their gadgets. Does this safety measure go too far?
Immigration Attorney Mana Yegani said U.S. border patrol agents are asking people to hand over their gadgets before entering the country. They are doing this so they can access the travelers' online accounts including Facebook, text messages and bank information.
Yegani said green card holders are telling her that agents are detaining them, sometimes for hours, before allowing entrance into the U.S. The border agents are interrogating them about political views and posts on social media. (A green card is a permit allowing a foreign national to live and work in the U.S.)
US Border patrol is deciding reentry for green card holders on a case by case basis - questions abt political views, chking facebook, etc
— Mana Yegani (@Law_Mana) January 28, 2017
Border agents scouring social media accounts isn't necessarily a new procedure. The Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection agency came up with the idea last June and started executing the plan in December.
That program was intended to be an opt-in request and not mandatory. Although, many travelers might not be aware that they have the right to refuse the request.
As far as U.S. law goes, courts have ruled in the past that suspects can be required to unlock their phones without violating the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. However, they do not have to give them their passcodes because they can be used against them maliciously.
What you must do before international travel
The most important thing before leaving or entering the country is knowing your rights. These rights can vary for each traveler, depending on the type of visa they have.
Yegani is urging people to speak with an attorney before traveling so you know exactly what your rights are. Also, if you are detained by an agent while entering the U.S., you should tell them that you would like to speak to a lawyer.