Retired Greenville, NC police chief Hassan Aden says he is the latest victim of harsh and seemingly arbitrary security tactics being carried out by airport immigration authorities across the country.
On March 13, Aden was returning to the U.S. after a trip to Paris to celebrate his mother’s 80th birthday when the incident happened, he said in a Facebook post.
It was the kind of trip he had made “countless times for 42 years after becoming a U.S. citizen.” But as soon as he handed over his passport, a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer took him into a backroom holding office, where he was detained for an hour and a half. The CBP officer told Aden that his name had been used as an alias by “someone” who appeared on “some watch list.” The officer said Aden would have to be cleared by a second, unnamed agency.
According to Aden:
I was taken to a back office which looked to be a re-purposed storage facility with three desks and signs stating, ‘Remain seated at all times’ and ‘Use of telephones strictly prohibited’—my first sign that this was not a voluntary situation and, in fact, a detention. By this point I had informed CBP Officer Chow, the one that initially detained me, that I was a retired police chief and a career police officer AND a US citizen—he stated that he had no control over the circumstance and that it didn’t matter what my occupation was. He handed my passport off to another CBP officer who was working at one of the desks. The second CBP officer was indeed kind and appreciated the fact that I was a career police officer and tried to be helpful. He explained that my name was used as an alias by someone on some watch list. He stated that he sent my information to another agency to de-conflict and clear me, so that I could gain passage into the United States….my own country!!!
While some 25 other foreign travelers were ushered in and out of the room, Aden remained, with no answers from authorities, his anger building. He says the CBP officer denied that he was under detention.
I was in a room with no access to my mobile phone to communicate with my wife and family about what was happening, my movements were restricted to a chair and they had my passport………and he had the audacity to tell me I was not being detained. His ignorance of the law and the Fourth Amendment should disqualify him from being able to wear a CBP badge—but maybe fear and detention is the new mission of the CBP and the Constitution is a mere suggestion. I certainly was not free to leave. As former law enforcement, believe me, I agree that if certain criteria is met, a reasonable investigative detention is not inappropriate-the key here being ‘reasonable.’
Aden says the experience left him “feeling vulnerable and unsure of a country that was once great.”
I spent nearly 30 years serving the public in law enforcement. Since I retired as the Chief of Police in Greenville, NC, I founded a successful consulting firm that is involved in virtually every aspect of police and criminal justice reform. I interface with high level U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Court officials almost daily. Prior to this administration, I frequently attended meetings at the White House and advised on national police policy reforms-all that to say that If this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone with attributes that can be ‘profiled.’ No one is safe from this type of unlawful government intrusion.
The number of reports of U.S. immigration authorities at airports detaining U.S. citizens based on their names or ethnicities is increasing since President Donald Trump began efforts to implement his promised Muslim ban. While courts have so far blocked two of Trump’s Muslim ban executive orders, profiling in the name of “extreme vetting” continues unabated.
Muhammad Ali Jr., son of the late, great boxer, and his mother—both U.S. citizens—were detained in February in Florida after attending a Black History Month event in Jamaica. They said they were asked if they are Muslims and told they had “Arabic–sounding names,” according to The Washington Post.
Ali Jr. was detained again a month later at Reagan National Airport while trying to board a domestic flight to Florida, after he traveled to Washington to speak at a Democratic lawmaker forum on Trump’s draconian immigration policy.