German national Majed Shehadeh and his wife, Joanne Mulligan, decided that when they visited their daughter in California for the holidays, they would fly through McCarran International Airport.

The Muslim couple wanted to avoid Los Angeles International Airport because two years ago, federal authorities detained them for 4 1/2 hours.

Mulligan arrived from Germany first, on Dec. 17, and the U.S.-born traveler cleared customs swiftly. She went on to her daughter’s Bakersfield, Calif., home, then returned to Henderson to visit her aunt, Louise Langlois, before heading to the airport to pick up Shehadeh last Thursday .

The Lufthansa charter aircraft her husband was flying on landed shortly after 2 p.m. But her husband of 30 years wasn’t to be found.

She waited and waited. She asked an official with Condor, the charter company. Eventually, the official told her Shehadeh, who is of Syrian descent, had been detained.

She said that as she waited for her husband she flashed on events of two years earlier, when the two had flown over together for daughter Majida Shehadeh’s wedding. Now the occasion was her anniversary, and her admission to the California State Bar.

Mulligan tried to calm herself, thinking that Shehadeh, 62, would be with her again after a few hours, by 6 p.m. or so, a little inconvenienced, but none the worse for the wear.

But 6 p.m. came and went. At 8:45, she said, “I was really concerned for his health.” Since a 2004 heart attack, he had to take medicine every four hours. It had been nearly 24 hours since he left Germany.

“I thought, ‘Did he eat? Did he take his medicine?’ “

She approached an official who identified himself as a senior agent with the federal U.S. Customs and Border Protection and asked if she could talk to her husband. Told no, she asked about the medicine and why her husband was detained.

She said the agent told her, “I’m not here to answer your questions about every procedure.”

Roxanne Hercules, a spokeswoman for the Customs and Border Protection, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that Shehadeh was denied entry, but would not discuss specifics. She said Shehadeh’s visa waiver normally offered to Germans could have been denied because “he could have a criminal record, or it could be a terrorism issue.”

Sometime after 9 p.m., the official told Mulligan that her husband was being taken to the North Las Vegas Detention Center.

“In his whole life, he hasn’t gotten a parking ticket,” Mulligan said. She called the detention center to leave her aunt’s phone number, but employees refused to take the message.


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