National Public Radio producer Sarah Abdurrahman recently traveled with her husband and children to Canada for a wedding, along with several other Muslim families. The families were unprepared for what happened next.
Customs & Border Patrol agents detained each of the families at the border for 6 hours. The agents confiscated and inspected cell phones and laptops. The agents chided and laughed at the travelers. When Abdurrahman attempted to obtain names and badge numbers, the agents turned away and hid their names. The families were detained in extreme cold, a process that those who monitor CBP activities refer to as “the icebox.” One troubling aspect of the treatment received by the Muslim families was that each of them was a U.S. citizen.
James Lyle, of the ACLU in Arizona, has tracked complaints about CBP tactics for years. Lyle told the story of four-year-old Emily Ruiz who was detained for 20 hours at Dulles Airport, kept from her parents for 14 hours and ultimately deported – despite the fact that she was also a US citizen. It took three weeks for the girl to get back to the States.
Abdurrahman produced a remarkable story on the matter for NPR and it has received some attention in the press. But the problem is that there is very little oversight of CBP tactics. Many believe that CBP has become overly zealous and abusive.
Our client and callers routinely complain about treatment that they have received from CBP and TSA agents. CBP should not be harassing anyone, but especially not U.S. citizens. Congress needs to investigate these abusive tactics and put an end to them immediately. Alternatively, someone needs to sue CBP and conduct discovery into these patterns of abuse.