Despite having paperwork showing that he has been granted asylum, the agents told him he was “illegal”
Up-and-coming Portland comedian Mohanad Elshieky was traveling by bus home from a gig in Spokane, Washington, when his day was turned upside down. Border Patrol agents boarded his Greyhound, picked him from the crowded bus, and detained and interrogated him despite his valid paperwork and identification.
The Libyan comic, who escaped violent conflict in his home country, shared his outrageous experience in a series of viral tweets. As of today the post has 113,000 likes and 59,000 shares – and has sparked local lawmakers to ask for an investigation on the state level in Washington.
This morning, ICE agents got on my Greyhound bus that was headed from Spokane to Portland. 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”.
— Mohanad Elshieky (@MohanadElshieky) January 27, 2019
Even though he explained his situation and his legal immigration status, the agents were unmoved.
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. They told me that I was lying and these could pretty much be falsified.— Mohanad Elshieky (@MohanadElshieky) January 27, 2019
They even allegedly lied to him when they called to verify his status.
They got on the phone with immigration and gave them my name and document number and I can hear the person on the end of the line saying that yes they can see my name and yes, I entered the country legally.— Mohanad Elshieky (@MohanadElshieky) January 27, 2019
The ICE agent ended the call and then said “there are no records of your Asylum” and I again said that was impossible. Then said I should had my Asylum approval on me which is ridiculous, why would I carry that where I have my IDs.— Mohanad Elshieky (@MohanadElshieky) January 27, 2019
Only threatening the agents with legal action seemed to get through to them – since they likely knew that he had valid paperwork.
I kept it together and told them that what they are doing now is illegal and that they must hand me my documents back or I will have to call my lawyer and take legal action.— Mohanad Elshieky (@MohanadElshieky) January 27, 2019
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.— Mohanad Elshieky (@MohanadElshieky) January 27, 2019
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.— Mohanad Elshieky (@MohanadElshieky) January 27, 2019
To be honest, I have never felt as terrible as I did today. I have never imagined that I would have to go through this.— Mohanad Elshieky (@MohanadElshieky) January 27, 2019
Overall, it was a reminder of what it’s like to be an immigrant, and a person of color, in the United States today under this administration and in these times.
It was an 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.— Mohanad Elshieky (@MohanadElshieky) January 27, 2019
He not only had strong words for the actions of the agents, but also for Greyhound, which did not have to let the agents board the private transportation system in the first place.
The ironic part is that I though that smell on the Greyhound bus was gonna be the worst part of the trip. Also, fuck you @GreyhoundBus. You could have easily not let those agents on the bus but you’re just as shitty as you smell.— Mohanad Elshieky (@MohanadElshieky) January 27, 2019
He even added a few photos, taken after the incident, and it appears, from the safety of the bus after he was allowed to board again.
Here is a photo of the racist trash Fox News call “heroes”. pic.twitter.com/oXbSfoKvB7— Mohanad Elshieky (@MohanadElshieky) January 27, 2019
He did correct his original statement in one way: the men were not ICE agents, they were Border Patrol agents – hanging out hours from the actual border.
Some people have brought to my attention that based on the photos I taken, those were CBP and not ICE. Here is a photo of my ticket in case anyone wants to make sure I was on the bus. There was snow on the floor and it was freezing cold in Spokane. Feel free to ask me anything. pic.twitter.com/s6X7EKxuj3— Mohanad Elshieky (@MohanadElshieky) January 28, 2019
He ends the thread by saying that although people have been asking to donate to him personally, he would rather see the money go to the ACLU or other non-profits that support immigrants.
I had some nice people DM me to ask me if I needed support and what my Venmo/PayPal were. Although I like money, I am not looking to profit out of this but only bring attention to a larger issue. Please donate your money to the ACLU or any organization that supports immigrants.— Mohanad Elshieky (@MohanadElshieky) January 30, 2019
The response to Elshieky’s thread has been huge. Not only did it makes its round on Twitter, but constituents from the area asked their local lawmakers to investigate the incident.
And some responded with statements, including state representative Pramila Jayapal.
These are troubling allegations of harassment and profiling. I am absolutely opposed to agents pulling passengers off Greyhound buses at random and I stand against policies that allow Border Patrol to conduct enforcement hours away from the border itself. https://t.co/Trtj5D7q13
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) January 28, 2019
Mohanad Elshiek is a rising star in the comedy world, who has recently been named a Team Coco Comic to Watch and the best undiscovered comic from Washington State by Thrillist. He started telling jokes as a teen on a radio station in Bengazi, and now tours nationally, telling jokes that cover a range of topics, including race, politics, and his experience coming to the United States.
Shortly after he was stopped, he returned to the stage at the White Owl Social Club to talk about the issue in the way he does best: through comedy.
“I’ve been living in the U.S. for four and a half years,” he opens, “and I think I need to speak to the manager. Because the product looks nothing like the image. I even read the reviews before moving here.”
He also released a final statement on Twitter, outlining his life before coming to the United States – and what led to his journey here.
This is going to be my last tweet about the whole fiasco with immigration officers this weekend, so please bear with me. pic.twitter.com/128nni3WWO
— Mohanad Elshieky (@MohanadElshieky) January 30, 2019
He wrote about helping the American troops as a translator on the front lines in Libya, despite death threats, potential jail time, and being called a traitor by both sides. He also wrote about how he refuses to stay silent about what happened to him.
“I have no hate in my heart for the troops, the U.S., its laws, or the good people in it,” he wrote. “That being said, those who use their power to oppress others, to put in pain and to make this country a bad place are people who I will continue to call out publicly. I follow the laws, so they better do too.”
“A government agency has been unjust toward me, I called them out and told my story, I don’t have an agenda an I don’t work for anyone, I work toward what I think is right. Before you call me ungrateful, ask yourself what you have done to this country because I have probably done for it more than you, a person who just happened to be horn here. You did not choose to be here, I did… Next time you tell me to go back to my house, I will drive back to NW Portland where my home is.”