BORDERS SPELL TROUBLE FOR ARAB-AMERICAN
Abe Dabdoub calls the day he was sworn in as an American citizen last year the proudest moment of his life, little suspecting that his new identity would set off a bureaucratic nightmare at the hands of the Department of Homeland Security.
Most of his family members live in Canada, and on each of Mr. Dabdoub’s 14 trips to visit them since last August, on his way back across the Ambassador Bridge into Michigan, the Customs and Border Patrol agents have sent him through a security gantlet, he says.
He has been fingerprinted 14 times, his body searched 9 times, been handcuffed 4 times and isolated in a separate detention room 13 times. On the fourth trip, the border patrol agents started subjecting his wife to similar scrutiny.
Two months ago, he sought relief through a new online system that the Department of Homeland Security trumpets as a one-stop shop for travelers who think they have been wronged, the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program, or TRIP. But the problem continues unabated and, typical of such cases, no one in the federal government nor his elected representatives will tell him why he is being singled out.
“I’ve always believed that in America if there is some type of injustice going on, that if you make it known to the right people, it will get taken care of,” said Mr. Dabdoub, 39, who was born in Saudi Arabia to Palestinian parents. They moved to Canada when he was 5.
“This time I’ve lost faith in the system; it’s either indifferent or inefficient or both,” Mr. Dabdoub, an engineer and manager of a plant in Cleveland that provides steel to automobile companies, added, in a telephone interview.
Arab-American and civil rights organizations say experiences like Mr. Dabdoub’s are common enough that they suspect the federal security agency is profiling Arabs and Muslims, an accusation the department denies.
Various Arab-American organizations and the American Civil Liberties Union are holding a conference in Cleveland today to highlight cases like Mr. Dabdoub’s. They want increased Congressional oversight of the terrorist watch list system to insure that the security agency is not abusing the basic civil rights of United States citizens at the borders.