A comedian who was granted permission to live in the United States after obtaining political asylum says he was forced off a Greyhound bus on Sunday by U.S. border agents who refused to believe he was legally here.
Mohanad Elshieky, originally from Libya, said in a Twitter post that federal agents boarded the bus, which was leaving Spokane, Washington, en route to Portland, Oregon, and targeted him and a few other passengers, asking them to get off the bus so they could review their immigration status.
“They … took my documents and interrogated me for around 20 mins then claimed my papers were fake and that I’m ‘illegal,’” Elshieky said
Elshieky said he continued to insist that his documents were legitimate, and that even after checking with immigration officials over the telephone who told him the comedian was in the country legally, the agent kept accusing him of being in the States unlawfully.
Finally, after Elshieky stood his ground, they dropped the matter. They warned him to carry his papers with him which, Elshieky said, “means nothing because I did and they said they were fake.”
Elshieky’s post was retweeted more than 2,000 times and got more than 20,000 “likes.”
Elshieky, who has been highlighted by comedian Conan O’Brien as a comedian to watch, came to the U.S. on a J-1 visa in 2014.
One of those responding to his tweet was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who used Elshieky’s account to renew calls for the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
She tweeted: “One of these days, I hope people realize that the idea that ICE should be scrapped isn't so crazy after all. ICE jails children in for-profit detention centers funded by private equity grps. Kids are dying w/ 0 accountability. If that's not totally broken, I don't know what is."
For its part, the U.S. Border Patrol confirmed Elshieky’s account of the incident. The agency said in a statement to news outlets: "Agents from the U.S. Border Patrol's Spokane Station encountered an individual on Sunday at the Spokane Intermodal Bus Station who was not in possession of the immigration documents required by law.”
"While performing transportation checks, agents made contact with Mohanad Elshieky. Mr. Elshieky stated he was from Libya and presented the agents with an Oregon driver's license and an Employment Authorization Card (EAD)," the statement read.
"As with anyone who needs to have their immigration status verified, Mr. Elshieky was asked to exit the bus. After the approximately 20 minutes needed to verify his status, Mr. Elshieky was allowed to board the bus and continue his travels without delay."
Many on Twitter took aim at Greyhound, which has drawn fire before for allowing immigration checks of its passengers, and for serving as a quasi-immigration checkpoint.
On its Twitter page, Greyhound said: "We support changes to the current law which allows immigration officials to stop and board buses within 100 miles of any border. We encourage anyone seeking changes to contact their congressperson.”
Various chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have taken exception to Greyhound's stance.
The ACLU of Vermont called the searches a violation of passengers' Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Border Patrol officials say that federal laws permit them to conduct such searches.