Earlier this month, On the Media producer Sarah Abdurrahman, her family, and her friends were detained for hours by US Customs and Border Protection on their way home from Canada. Everyone being held was a US citizen, and no one received an explanation. Sarah tells the story of their detainment, and her difficulty getting any answers from one of the least transparent agencies in the country.
Listen to the full report.
Other members of the party were grilled about their religious background. All of them were told to surrender their cell phones, unlocked, and not expect them to be necessarily returned.
Munia Jabbar, an attorney at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told NPR that CAIR has noticed a pattern of CBP agents imposing “really invasive and personal questions about their protected religious activity” when questioning Muslim travelers.
“You’re singling out people based on their religion and then subjecting them to longer detentions and to humiliating questioning about stuff that they’re allowed to do legally, in fact, stuff that is part of the bedrock of our Bill of Rights,” Jabbar said.
The Bill of Rights also protects people against unlawful search and seizure, but the Muslim-Americans who attempted to come home on Labor Day weren’t allowed that right either.
“It went from, we won’t search your phones to, we’re gonna search your phone, confiscate it and not give it back to you,” Abdurrahman’s friend Khaled Ahmed told NPR “I got into an argument with the officer. I said, ‘Listen, all my work is on my phone. I really need it.’ He got aggressive with me, he said, ‘Listen, you’re not leaving with your phone today.'”