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Comedian Traveling Home From Gig Ordered Off Bus and Detained by Border Patrol Agents
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=50052"><span class="small">Caitlin O'Kane, CBS News</span></a>   
Wednesday, 30 January 2019 09:28

O'Kane writes: "Comedian Mohanad Elshieky said on Monday that he was detained by Border Patrol agents while traveling home from a gig."

Portland comedian Mohanad Elshieky. (photo: The Spokesman-Review)
Portland comedian Mohanad Elshieky. (photo: The Spokesman-Review)

Comedian Traveling Home From Gig Ordered Off Bus and Detained by Border Patrol Agents

By Caitlin O'Kane, CBS News

30 January 19


omedian Mohanad Elshieky said on Monday that he was detained by Border Patrol agents while traveling home from a gig. The comedian, who is originally from Libya, was on his way from Spokane, Washington, to Portland, Oregon, where he lives. He said the Greyhound bus he was on stopped and the agents got on.

"They walked around before they asked me and few others to step outside and took my documents and interrogated me for around 20 mins then claimed my papers were fake and that I'm 'illegal,'" Elshieky tweeted on Monday. 

His Twitter thread about the interaction has gone viral, with over 100,000 Twitter users engaging with his posts. 

"I explained to them that I was granted Asylum here in the United States, and that the work permit they currently hold and the license are impossible to get unless your presence here is legal," Elshieky tweeted. "They told me that I was lying and these could pretty much be falsified."

The comedian originally thought the agents worked for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but later learned they worked for Customs and Border Protections. He wrote that the agents called an immigration office to confirm that he was in the U.S. legally. He said he could hear the person on the other line confirm he had entered legally.

"The ICE agent ended the call and then said, 'There are no records of your Asylum,' and I again said that was impossible," Elsheiky wrote. "Then [they] said I should [have] had my Asylum approval on me which is ridiculous, why would I carry that where I have my IDs."

Elsheiky said throughout the interaction he kept it together and told the agents that what they were doing was illegal. He told them that he would call his lawyer and take legal action if his documents were not given back to him.

"Another ICE agent then started yelling at me to take my hands out of my pockets and I did which is stupid because it was snowing and they were wearing gloves and my hands were freezing cold," Elsheiky tweeted. 

"They handed my documents back and said, 'Next time, have your papers on you,' which means nothing because I did and they said they were fake," he wrote. 

"To be honest, I have never felt as terrible as I did today," the comedian tweeted. "I have never imagined that I would have to go through this."

Elsheiky said this experience was another reminder that "even though I have been here for 5 years working my ass off, I was still considered 'Other,' and I have never felt as alone as I did in that station full of people." 

He later tweeted about what he has overcome as a Libyan seeking asylum, who has become a successful comedian in the U.S. "I have survived a revolution and a civil war and lived in Benghazi my whole life and managed to get through that and come here and start a comedy career that has been taking off well," he wrote. "So stop sending me hate mail and racist s**** into my DM because you're not gonna break me fools."

Elsheiky, who was named a "comedian to watch" by Conan O'Brien, often tweets about political issues, particularly those relating to immigration and border security. 

In true comedic fashion, Elsheiky ended the thread with a joke. "The ironic part is that I [thought] that smell on the Greyhound bus was gonna be the worst part of the trip," he joked, adding: "Also, f*** you @GreyhoundBus. You could have easily not let those agents on the bus but you're just as s***ty as you smell."

The comedian shared photos of the agents, which appears to have been taken from the bus window. Several Twitter users said they looked like Customs and Border Protection agents, and Elsheiky later tweeted a correction saying he did not know the difference between their uniforms and the ones ICE agents wear.

He also shared screenshots of his ticket to verify he was on the bus.

"There was snow on the floor and it was freezing cold in Spokane. Feel free to ask me anything," he ended the thread. 

The comedian received thousands of replies on his tweets, with some people tagging lawmakers, hoping to get their attention on the issue. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined the thousands of people who retweeted Elshieky, writing: "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."

Elshieky continued to tweet about the incident throughout Monday, and shared an article from a local Portland newspaper, Willamette Week. "For anyone who claimed that my story was made up, here is an official response from CBP confirming the incident," he wrote. "They also now say that my Asylum status was valid even though at the time they said there was no record of it on their system."

"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," a CBP spokesperson told CBS News via email.

"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."

CBS News has reached out to Mr. Elshieky and is awaiting response.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 January 2019 10:54


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+2 # Anne Frank 2019-01-30 11:02
Years ago, Border Patrol agents were mostly working class people who understood the lives of other workers. After the congress changed the name to Bureau of Customs and Border Protection in 2002 the agents progressively have become bullies, in keeping with the new Third Reich style moniker. One must wonder, however, why after five years with asylum status Elshieky has not applied for permanent resident status.
+6 # suzyskier 2019-01-30 11:48
Are the Stasi now living and working here now? Seems like it. Had problems at border crossing some years ago bring our Mexican exchange student back from Quebec to Vermont. Apparently the border patrol in San Diego removed a card from his passport when he entered and didn’t put it back. It took hours to straighten out. He was 16 years old. I dread coming back thru now, so many macho agents there.
+6 # Observer 47 2019-01-30 11:59
Aside from the sheer harassment quotient here, and the lies the agents told, I have to question WHAT CBP was doing over 90 miles from the nearest border, that being the one with Canada? Does CBP have the latitude to indiscriminatel y search transport vehicles anywhere in the US, regardless of proximity to an international border? Looks as if this country has truly become a police state.
+2 # gr8vermont 2019-01-31 02:00
I believe they have authority to act within 100 miles of an international boundary. They used to set up check points in White River Jct, VT, on I-91. Vast majority of vehicles were simply waved through, but they did apprehend a number of people who were here illegally. Public criticism of the stoppages, I think, caused them to stop, but the signs are still there, ready to be used, and there have been indications that they may start up again.
+1 # gr8vermont 2019-01-31 02:08
To continue - The actual border seems to be well-monitored. I have been stopped and questioned after coming out of the woods at the end of the day while hunting close to the PQ border. I was standing in the dark at the edge of a field, waiting for my companion to come out. The agent knew that I had been carrying a backpack although, at the time he stopped us, I was no longer carrying it. I asked how he knew and he said they had surveillance monitors "all around here." I assume they use infrared devices, as I am aware they used them in the past on the ME/PQ border. He said people would be left off on the Canadian side after dark, walk south guided by the railroad track, and be met by someone on the U.S. side. Since I had come out of the woods and gone to a vehicle left near the railroad track, he had been sent to check me out. Once he was satisfied that we were actually hunting, we engaged in some friendly small talk, he moved his vehicle, which he had used to block us, and we were allowed to go. The border between VT and PQ is simply a narrow swath, 20 ft. +/-, cut through the forest and somewhat overgrown. I assume we must have equally sophisticated monitoring technology in place on most of our border with Mexico, as well. I would think people crossing illegally are on screen there, too.
+6 # dascher 2019-01-30 12:25
'As with anyone who needs to have their immigration status verified'

This is the most chilling part of the story. Why would he, and none of the other passengers on the bus have "needed" to have his immigration status verified?

How about you? You look to to me like somebody who needs to have their immigration status verified. Show me your papers!
0 # NAVYVET 2019-02-02 00:11
This was set up because someone up high resents his comedy quips, I'd bet. They knew who he is, and he's correct, Greyhound colluded. I'll bet the snoops had some trouble locating him on the bus. He looks like a European or a USian of European origin. I don't mean to insult him--but the DNA of Libyans of Arab or Berber descent will be as Caucasoid as Richard Nixon's: brown hair, brown eyes, and facial 5 o'clock shadow, although Mr Elshieky is a whole lot handsomer than Nixon ever was.
0 # HenryS1 2019-01-30 14:52
Sounds outrageous, but I ended up with mud on my face after getting outraged and activated by the anonymously released pics of Nathan Phillips and the Covington highs school thing in Washington. Seems like lots of good facts here to go over carefully. If the above story holds up, this incident is well worth examining.