23 August 2008 ~ 0 Comments

U.S. Government Wrongfully Detaining Citizens and Tourists

I came across an outrageous article today that reminded me of a caller I spoke to when I staffed the National Lawyers’ Guild 9-11 Hotline. He was a dual-citizen of Bulgaria and the United States who was apprehended by Homeland Security at the San Francisco Intl. Airport for practically no reason (His name was probably on the DHS ‘watch list’ again for no particular reason). Homeland Security sent him paperwork to fill-out a few weeks later where he had to answer nonsensical questions such as “What is the purpose of your dual citizenship?” and “What country are you more loyal towards, Bulgaria or the United States?” Needless to say, the guy was frustrated, confused and enraged at this treatment–He is a U.S. citizen!

The case below is not of a U.S. citizen but involves a German of Syrian descent whose wife and children are U.S. citizens nonetheless. He was mistreated and detained by U.S. Immigration officers. Who knows how many stories from other citizens, immigrants and tourists never made it to press.

(Does anyone scoffing need to be reminded of the Italian tourist that was wrongfully detained because Immigration officers had no interpreters that could translate Italian)?

LAS VEGAS—A German businessman of Syrian descent has sued federal and city law enforcement officials, alleging they mistreated him after a December 2006 arrest at the Las Vegas airport and tried to coerce him into spying for the United States in his home country.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Nevada, alleges that agents unlawfully held Mohamed Majed Chehade Refai, also known as Majed Chehade and Majed Shehadeh, in a North Las Vegas detention center for three nights. The suit names an Immigration and Customs agent, the city of North Las Vegas and the North Las Vegas Police Department.
Lawyers for Chehade claim that their client was denied heart medication for 36 hours despite a recent heart surgery, treated roughly on the way to the detention center from Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport and forced to submit to a body cavity and strip search.
Chehade, 63, said in a statement released by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in San Francisco that federal agents who interrogated him told him that they wanted him to return to Germany and provide them information about people who expressed anti-American sentiment.
He was released Dec. 31, 2006 and allowed to fly back to Germany, the lawsuit said.
“They told me that if I did not cooperate with them I would not be able to come back to the U.S. again,” said Chehade. “They apparently have carried out that threat. For no reason, I was denied a visa when I last tried to visit the U.S.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has confirmed that Chehade was denied entry, but has provided no details of his case.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice said the agency does not comment on pending litigation, but added that medical care is provided to anyone detained by the agency.
“The agency is committed to the health and welfare of those in its custody. All those detained by ICE receive a medical screening by a physician,” Kice said.
North Las Vegas police spokesman Mark Hoyt said he had no immediate comment because he had not seen the complaint. North Las Vegas spokeswoman Brenda Fischer said the city would not comment on the lawsuit until it had been served.
Chehade’s wife and three children are U.S. citizens, and Chehade has owned a home in Massachusetts for 20 years, the lawsuit said. Chehade said he was on his way to visit his wife, daughter and grandson in California.
The lawsuit said an FBI agent and Massachusetts state trooper approached Chehade’s wife, Joanne Mulligan of Bakersfield, Calif., at Boston’s Logan airport in mid-2007 and told her Chehade’s arrest had been a mistake. In early 2008, the trooper, Thomas K. Sarrouf, told her that Chehade’s name was wrongly placed on a watch list and was removed after the arrest, the suit said.
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Associated Press writer Kathleen Hennessey contributed to this report.

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