A 27-year old comedian was detained by Customs and Border Protection agents Sunday after being ordered off a Greyhound bus in Washington on his way home to Oregon.
Mohanad Elshieky, a Lybian comedian in the country legally, took to Twitter claiming he was one of a few people taken off the bus by the agents and interviewed for about 20 minutes.
Elshieky had been granted legal asylum last year after he received death threats for his work helping English-speaking journalists with translation and interpretation amidst the civil war in Lybia. He had also worked in support of programs and initiatives promoted by the U.S. embassy in Benghazi.
The agents reportedly continued to hold Elshieky even after he presented an Oregon drivers license and a valid work authorization card. The agents claimed the documents could be faked. “Even though I have been here for 5 years working my ass off, I was still considered ‘Other’,” Elshieky tweeted. “I have never felt as alone as I did in that station full of people.”
Elshieky claimed the agents acted in bad faith, lying about not being able to find records of his asylum even though Elshieky could overhear a phone call where the agents were told of his legal status. Elshieky stood his ground, accusing the officers of acting illegally, demanding his documents back, and threatening to call a lawyer.
Eventually, the agents did return the documents, with the warning that he should carry his papers on him, even though he had proper documentation.
Elshieky directs part of his frustration at the Greyhound bus company, tweeting “Fuck you @GreyhoundBus. You could have easily not let those agents on the bus but you’re just as shitty as you smell.”
There are many who share Elshieky’s sentiment. Greyhound allows federal immigration agents to routinely board buses without warrants and ask passengers about their immigration status. Immigration activists and the ACLU of Texas have been calling on the Dallas-based company to refuse agents entry onto its buses, something the groups say is well within the company’s rights. So far, the company has refused to stop the practice.
This incident is the latest in a series of missteps by immigration officials. According to NPR, hundreds of American citizens get caught up in the immigration system and must prove they are American citizens. A 50-year-old American-born citizen filed a lawsuit after he was almost deported to Jamaica last year by mistake.
As for Elshieky, he has taken the incident in stride. “What happened to me doesn’t make me want to stay in the U.S any less,” he tweeted. “I do love being here and I view the United States as my home.”