Homeland Security Is An Embarassment With The Way It Treats US Citizens At The Border
from the this-needs-to-stop dept
A few months back, we wrote about the horrific treatment by Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Patrol agents of On the Media producer Sarah Abdurrahman and her friends and family at the border. They were all US citizens and yet were detained for many hours for no reason, had their electronics seized and were generally treated terribly. Homeland Security has refused to explain why it stopped them — though, the obvious answer is that they were Muslim. There is now a similar story from Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, the Emmy-nominated producer and host of Huffpost Live (full disclosure: he once had me on his show), discussing how he gets detained every time he returns to the country. This time, he was just coming back from the World Economic Forum at Davos, and he was given a document with a big X over his face and sent to a “special” line:
At the door, an Egyptian-American woman greeted me, “Al Salaam Aleykum,” she said. I reluctantly responded “Wa Aleykum Al Salam,” though I was hardly feeling at peace. The room was filled with rows of seats and several DHS officers with colorful folders (red, yellow, green, blue) lined up in front of them with passports and travel documents. The juxtaposition of the colorful folders with the rows of mostly brown people filling the seats was suspect in itself.
“Omar Mubarak… Juan Diaz… Sayed Hussain,” the officers called us one by one.
I couldn’t help but feel as though JFK itself was a bit racist.
And, just as Sarah and her family and friends discovered, despite being US citizens, DHS treats them all like criminals:
After a 14-hour trip, I wanted to stretch my legs. So I stood up, anxious to find myself back in the room, especially after having written to the DHS. “Take a seat,” the officer at the door sternly said to me. I told him I wanted to stretch my legs after the long flight. He told me I wasn’t allowed to stand up. You are also not allowed to use your phone or electronic equipment. I was also slightly surprised to find as many children in the room as there were cameras.
“Sir, I’m a U.S. citizen who wants to stand while being detained. Am I not allowed to stand?” I said, pointing to the Asian man and Pakistani woman standing with their toddler strapped to the man’s chest. Anyway, there were only two empty seats in the room with a capacity of 60.
“Sit down!” he repeated for the sixth time, and came and confiscated my phone, which I was using to try to text my coworkers who were waiting to share a car home.
Like Sarah, DHS won’t provide any information as to why he was detained. And it clearly wasn’t random, seeing as this is the third time in a row it has happened. While he has applied to have his name removed from the list, as we noted with the lawsuit involving Rahinah Ibrahim, DHS seems to have no interest in correcting its mistakes until forced to do so.
Frankly, this is disgusting. It’s sickening that we are treating American citizens this way as they attempt to return home. Homeland Security and the US government seem to have dropped all pretense of freedom if you happen to be brown, Muslim or have an Arabic name (and just imagine those who hit on all three). This is not what this country is supposed to stand for — and the fact that we now have two very similar stories from prominent journalists, and DHS continues to respond by saying absolutely nothing, is even more disgusting. With On the Media, they’ve been trying to pressure Congress to investigate the matter, but to date, no one in Congress seems to want to take on this issue, which is a real shame.