A top government watchdog said today that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials may have violated a court order at Dulles Airport in the wake of President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
The issue came up when Sen. Cory Booker asked John Roth, the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, whether deliberately ignoring a court order would mean CBP officials had violated it.
“That’s my understanding as a lawyer,” Roth replied, in testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee. “Obviously it would have to be intentional, that is, knowing that fact, that a court order existed, and choosing not to follow that court order, I think that’s correct.”
Booker and other members of Congress—as well as Virginia’s attorney general—have said CBP officials may have violated a federal judge’s order when they refused to let volunteer lawyers meet with travelers detained at Dulles Airport on Jan. 28 and 29.
Booker went to Dulles on Jan. 28 when he heard that CBP officials weren’t letting detainees there see lawyers. On Wednesday, he told Roth that though CBP officials refused to meet with him in person, the senator had a copy of the court order “shuttled back” to their office at the airport.
“If the facts I’m relaying to you are correct, that they saw the court order and then still refused to allow lawyers back to meet with the people they were detaining—many of them for hours—that that fact pattern, that is a violation. Correct?”
“Yes,” Roth replied.
“Certainly, knowingly violating a court order would be, in my view, misconduct,” the inspector general added. “So we are going to be looking at those things.”
As chaos broke out at airports around the country over the weekend of Jan. 28—including at Dulles—Judge Leonie Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia ordered CBP officials at that airport to give volunteer lawyers access to lawful permanent residents who were detained. But those lawyers told The Daily Beast that CBP officials at the airport never let them meet with the travelers who were detained.
That night at Dulles, Booker told reporters and protesters that he believed those officials were violating the court order.
“They told me nothing, and it was unacceptable,” Booker said that night. “I believe it’s a Constitutional crisis, where the executive branch is not abiding by the law.”