Trump's 'Extreme Vetting' is Muzzling Activists and Shutting Them Out

Carrie DeCell
April 20, 2018

The Trump administration has explained that its so-called “extreme vetting” program is intended to bar individuals from the United States based on their attitudes toward this country. It is the fulfillment of a campaign promise to resurrect a cold war–era “ideological screening test” for admission into the United States. If the growing number of activists who have been denied admission or removed from the country in recent months is any indication, that test is tricky to pass.

Hours after landing in Minneapolis on Wednesday, Yassmin Abdel-Magied was on a flight back to London. Border agents reportedly pulled her aside upon arrival, took her cellphone, and – following a minutes-long review of her case – canceled her visa and denied her entry into the country.

A prominent Muslim Australian activist, Abdel-Magied was scheduled to speak at the PEN World Voices Festival in New York, including at one event prophetically titled The M Word: No Country for Young Muslim Women. US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) claimed Abdel-Magied was traveling on the wrong visa, though she had traveled to the United States on the same visa for similar events in the past.

Without more information, we can’t say definitively that CBP’s justification for turning Abdel-Magied away was pretextual. But her experience aligns with those of other activists, artists and experts who have been denied entry into the United States in recent months.