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Flying Home From Abroad, a Border Agent Stopped and Questioned Me … About My Work for the ACLU


Flying Home From Abroad, a Border Agent Stopped and Questioned Me … About My Work for the ACLU

Hina Shamsi

Last week, I was flying home from a work trip and faced Customs and Border Protection questioning unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in over 25 years of travel into and out of this country, including more than 10 years of travel for my work as an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union and other rights groups.

Compared to the hardship and suffering of the tens of thousands of people impacted by President Trump’s Muslim ban executive order, it was nothing. But it said something personal to me about the tenor of these dark times.


Shocking but not surprising. Trump is sending a clear message to every lower level functionary and uniformed official to act out their ignorance and prejudices. I doubt if people like this TSA officer even need a specific directive to harass people who work for the ACLU or otherwise show signs of being opposed to the Leader. This is what totalitarianism looks like.


La Migra are a bunch of fascist thugs.

I, a white USAn male, have been hassled and my car searched returning from Canada. In contrast, the Canadian border agents going the other way are always pleasant and friendly. My US citizen, landed Canadian migrant brother used to take Greyhound between Toronto and Pittsburgh. He was once questioned at length at the border because the book he took for reading on the trip was Lenin's 'Imperialism, the highest Stage of Capitalism" and a "who would Jesus bomb?' bumper sticker for a bookmark.


I deeply thank you for your service, Hina!


As a US citizen, I am not sure that I could have maintained my composure and professionalism as you did. I am a long time member of the ACLU; thank you for your service.


Yea Hina!!! You gave that border agent a lesson that he obviously might benefit by--albeit while going through an uncomfortable experience, yourself. Thank you for the work you do in upholding our rights and being there for those who might remain unrepresented when their rights, or very right to live, are not recognized.

And congratulations on attaining citizenship--you make me a bit more proud to be from the same country.


This particular subject is one of the most grievous insults to Human Rights.

If one lives in a border state, we are subjected to this ignorant mind repeatedly day after day.

What makes it even more intolerable is that it occurs within State territories miles inland from the border crossing. This alone is illegal and unconstitutional.

People are not even free within their own states. Inspection used to occur "at the border crossing". Now it occurs when ever the federal agents desire to "inspect your documents"
Why it is allowed is criminal in nature.

I am a lawful person, engaged in no illegal activities, allowed by law to be here.

Humans are not Illegal, Neither are Ideas.


Sadlly the behaviour described relating to the govt. employees at the airports is not something that just started with trumps ban, the behaviour I have encountered numerous times over the years at U.S. imigrations has been less than inviting, I am a white anglo male, so I doubt my profile fits a middle eastern terrorist, but they still find it prudent to pull me from line to secondary inspection whereupon I am treated to a bizzare showing of macho B.S. intimadatiion, and questions designed to try and trick me into saying something objectionable, one is made to feel guilty just by being there, there is no shortage of those that use there badge and power to make themselves feel superior to those the public. Common sense and decency is not in there job description, (witness the handcuffing of a 5 yr. old, and withholding of food and even water!!) There is nothing ordinary about anyone who would treat a child like that, american or not, it is basic human decency to your fellow man to offer them a glass of water or a kind smile .

I think a lot of the imigration agents at airports are dissgruntled wanna be cops but didnt quite have the "right stuff" to be law enforcement, and so they push around tired, jet lagged, confused , children, and anyone that just dosent "look right" they need to intimadate in order to feel superior, just like there demander in chief..., sad.


Border agents hate Americans for their freedoms. That much is very obvious.


It would appear as the sole federal worker's unions to endorse Dump, Border Control Agents, are ready to 'do their part.'


Let me share an event that happened on March 29, 2012 at the Miami International Airport.

My wife and I were returning to the U.S. from a 10-day trip to Ecuador. We left Quito, Ecuador early in the morning. We landed in Miami around 12:30 in the afternoon. As the plane was unloading, Homeland Security agents, in full S.W.A.T. gear and semi-automatic guns raised, ordered everyone without a U.S. or Canadian passport to lines up against the wall.

Since the flight originated in Quito, Ecuador; obviously the overwhelming majority of the passengers were Ecuadorian. These Homeland Security agents with their semi-automatic weapons raised had 150+ passengers, which included many children and elderly adults, lined up against the wall for over 3 hours while they were thoroughly patted down and questioned before all were released with no one being detained. It should be noted that everyone went through complete security screening in Quito, Ecuador.

As you can imagine, the children were absolutely terrified and were unable to stop crying and screaming. I now know from personal observation what terrorism looks like. It takes a real man, or woman, to have a semi-automatic gun raised on a 4-year-old child or an 80-year-old lady.

I was absolutely embarrassed to be an American. My wife and I were in tears on our flight to St. Louis. We could not believe the absolute brutality of the event that took place in Miami. We could not believe our "homeland" had come to this. This was not the America we grew up in. We made the decision that we could no longer live in the U.S. under such conditions.

We sold our house in the U.S. and moved to Ecuador four months later. We live in a large city in Ecuador with over 5,000 expats from the U.S.

Here we are, nearly 5 years later, and we both choked up telling this story to a group of friends at a party two weeks ago.

We had a habit of returning to the U.S. once a year to visit friends and family. My wife confronted me about a week ago making sure I understood that she was not returning to U.S. under the rule of a "dictator" (her words) ... ever.


Had President Correa said something the US didn't like before that incident?


Reminds me of when Amy Goodman of https://www.democracynow.org/ was detained at the Canadian border and questioned about her work, and had her personal papers and computer taken. She was made to tell them what she planned to speak about. I think this was Canadian border agents on high alert that someone might say something disconcerting about the Olympics. Also very disturbing.


Makes one angry beyond words.
Tough Guys with Big guns and little........care for their fellow humans.

History will always judge these ignorants the same.

Most of these guys couldn't make it as a cop so they went for someplace
that welcomed their sick behavior.

I would have to say that ICE and CBP have surpassed DEA for unscrupulous conduct.


I really don't know. I wasn't tuned into the politics of Ecuador yet at that time.

I don't know if you're following the election here that will take place this month. It's getting really ugly. All of a sudden, a corruption story surrounding Jorge Glas, Correa's current Vice President, and the Vice Presidential candidate on the ticket with Lenin Moreno the Pais Party's (Correa's party) presidential candidate pertaining to construction bribes of the state-owned oil company.

Though I am not a big fan of Correa [*] and the Pais Party, I am of the opinion that this has U.S. CIA written all over it since the Pais Party is a leftist party that initiated many social programs that raised the country out of absolute poverty. And then, of course, there are the issue with Assange and Snowden.

[*] There is no freedom of the press and anyone who speaks against Correa risks huge fines and imprisonment.


Rolson, the one thing I neglected to mention in my post is the attitudinal difference in the security checks between the U.S. and Ecuador.

The security check process at the airports is as comprehensive, if not more so, in Ecuador than in the U.S. Yet, in nearly 5 years, I've never had a security officer at any of their airports have an abusive, belligerent attitude. They are professionally polite and nonthreatening. Your heart doesn't begin to race when approaching the security checkpoints.

Not to jump to another subject, but it is the same way with the police here also. I've never ran into a police officer with an "attitude". Of course, I've never done anything to see their "other" side either. :grin:


Congrats on becoming a citizen and for the work you do. Many of us applaud the work the ACLU does on behalf of liberties for all.
Unfortunately america is going through one of it's hate periods again where non-wasps are made the enemy. We have survived every other time, hopefully we will survive this one also.


I left the US after the appointment of Bush the Lesser. I have to return this year for a family event. I was looking forward to it. Now, no. I'm not afraid of missing the event by being held up at the airport. I'm afraid that the border agents won't let me leave after the event's over.

If it weren't for the family event, I would not be returning to that country where I grew up - no matter who sits in the whitehouse. It pains me to say it, but this upcoming visit will likely be my last.


I was apprehensive last year when I made my trip to the U.S. I have three websites that provide education and other information about anarchism. Two different website hosts are involved (one in the U.S. and one in Denmark) and both hosts had notified me that "inquiries" had been made by the U.S. government -- they wouldn't provide me with specific details.

In the end, I didn't have any issues with Border Patrol (Immigration/Migration Services) at any U.S. point of contact. However, that was last year. Under Trump & Company, I'm almost certain that I'll have some issues if I ever need to return to the U.S. I even have concerns about the renewal of my U.S. passport.

Do you maintain dual citizenship?


That is very depressing if it is true.

I am a bit familiar with the Ecuadorian media reform law - and at the time I supported it becasue I thought that its purpose was to break up large, concentrated FOX-style right wing commercial media which attacked Correa's government and fabricated scandals 24/7 - and allow a more diverse media with more viewpoints in its place. It was based on the concept that in a capitalist commercial media system, "press freedom" without tight public-interest regulations always end up meaning buying-up of all the presses so only capitalist "business class" viewpoints are printed and broadcast. We need the same thing here in the US.

Venezuela did the same thing - recall that RCTV actually was involved in the 2002 coup attempt. They were let off very easy - loss of broadcast license, but still had access to cable. All the crap about dissenting media suppression in Venezuela remains largely bullshit - turn on any TV or Radio and it remains 24/7 lurid attacks on the Chvez, the PSUV and Maduro (although the latter deserves a lot of it)

So pardon a bit of skepticism. What exactly constitutes "speaking against Correa"? Are you saying that people criticizing him in a bar or with a friend on the street are getting arrested? That seems a bit over-the-top.