Some people of Arab descent and Muslims say they are repeatedly detained for hours as they cross the border from Canada to Michigan because a terrorist watch list is not accurate.

Homeland Security officials say they are aware that innocent travelers are often detained, but that little can be done in the short term to clean up the lists — and there is no official appeals process for those who feel wronged.

“You have to prepare yourself and go through all sort of psychological work to think: OK, what am I going to say when they handcuff me?” said Imam Steve Elturk, the leader of the Islamic Organization of North America, a mosque in Warren. He has crossed the border a few times in the past two years and was stopped all but once.

U.S. immigration and customs officials say they use watch lists to help them identify potential terrorists. They won’t reveal the names on their lists, but more than a dozen people interviewed by The Detroit News say they were told at the border their names are the same or similar to those on the list used at the border in Detroit and Port Huron.

They say they are stopped repeatedly, usually handcuffed — often in front of their anxious families — and detained for up to five hours, without explanation.

When they are freed, although it has been established they are not suspected terrorists, they are informed that they are likely to be detained again. They say they are also told they can obtain no record of their detention, or information about why they were held. . .

Federal officials say 3,700 people have complained about the detentions since February. Groups like the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, the Arab American Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union say the problem is growing.


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