Ahmed Shihab-Eldin is a respected journalist who holds US citizenship. Every time he returns to his home in New York, he is detained for many hours by the DHS, subjected to humiliating questioning and detention without evidence or charge, because he fits a "profile" that seems to consist entirely of "brown dude with Arabic name who visits the middle east." He recently returned from the World Economic Forum in Davos and found himself detained for hours, despite having been assured that his name had been removed from the DHS's watch-list.
His story of harrowing treatment at JFK airport stands in sharp contrast to his experiences at checkpoints in the middle east, where security risks are much more immediate and more grave. As he points out, America has spent billions creating an aviation security system and system of border checks that have had no material impact on security, but have nonetheless enmiserated, alienated, and harassed millions of people who committed no crime and posed no threat,
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.
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.
Davos to Detention: Why I Hate Coming Home to America [Ahmed Shihab-Eldin/Huffington Post]
(via Mitch Wagner)