ACLU employee: I was interrogated for my civil liberties work while trying to get back into the country

Hina Shamsi claims that she was harassed for her work with the ACLU and being Pakistani

Published February 8, 2017 4:27PM (EST)


An employee at the American Civil Liberties Union claims to have been detained by Customs and Border Protection because of her job and Pakistani heritage.

ACLU National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi wrote that, as she returned to America from Dominica for a case involving CIA torture victims, a CPB agent detained her and plied her with inappropriate questions about her work for the ACLU and her ethnic background.

"What was I doing in Dominica?" Shamsi quoted the CPB agent as saying.

"I explained that I am a lawyer working for the American Civil Liberties Union and traveled there for a case," she replied. "Why, asked the CBP agent holding my Pakistani passport, would someone working for an organization with 'American' in its name have 'this' passport? And why would someone working for an organization with 'American' in its name be representing people who are not citizens? (Perhaps the agent had not heard about ACLU lawsuits challenging the Muslim ban on behalf of noncitizens.)"

Shamsi described the rest of the interrogation as being "extensive" and including "not just travel, but my schooling and other jobs over the years."

This isn't the first time that border patrol agents in the Trump era have been accused of singling people out based on their political beliefs (which is illegal).

There have been reports that border agents are monitoring green card holders' Facebook pages to determine their political beliefs before allowing them into the country. In addition, two Canadians claim they were turned away at the American border after they said they were entering the country to participate in the anti-Trump Women's March. It was reported that "morale" has improved among border agents since Trump became president, and that alt right sites like Breitbart are particularly popular among them.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has also appeared in Mic, MSN, MSNBC, Yahoo, Quartz, The Good Men Project, The Daily Dot, Alter Net, Raw Story and elsewhere.

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