A comedian says U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers asked him to get off a Greyhound bus in Washington, then demanded to see his papers and attempted to declare them fake. The incident, which he recounted in a series of tweets, has been met with national outrage from both the public and politicians.
On Sunday morning, the day after performing a routine at Washington State University, Mohanad Elshieky boarded a bus from Spokane, Washington, to Portland, Oregon, where he is based. But before the bus could depart from the Spokane Intermodal Bus Station, Elshieky says that federal agents got into the vehicle and asked him to go back outside to answer a stream of invasive questions. (His original tweet says the agents were from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but he later corrected himself to say they were from CBP.)
“This morning … agents got on my Greyhound bus that was headed from Spokane to Portland,” he tweeted Sunday afternoon. “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, who was born in Libya but has been granted asylum in the U.S., says that one of the CBP agents then got on the phone with immigration and recited Elshieky’s name and document number. He says he heard the person on the other end of the phone verify his story; however, when the CBP agent ended the call, Elshieky claims he said, “There are no records of your asylum.” The agent then allegedly told him that he should’ve been carrying his asylum approval documents, which Elshieky thought was a “ridiculous” demand.
In a statement to the Cut, a CBP spokesperson confirmed that their officers had stopped Elshieky in Spokane and forced him off the bus, but insisted that he was “not in possession of the immigration documents required by the law.” The spokesperson also described the immigration check as routine — though Elshieky left it feeling “terrible.”
“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,” he wrote. He also posted photos of his Greyhound ticket and photos of the CBP agents.
Elshieky’s Twitter thread went viral, and was met with horror from both the public and politicians. In response to the thread, Spokane Councilwoman Kate Burke blamed the incident on Mayor David Condon, who did not sign an ordinance that would’ve prohibited Border Patrol agents from asking bus riders about their citizenship status.
“I am absolutely ashamed and sorry this has happened to you,” she tweeted. “We on City Council passed an ordinance to prevent this kind of harassment. Our mayor, David Condon, has failed to execute that law.”
The confrontation even caught the attention of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who pointed to the incident as yet another example of America’s broken immigration system. (She tweeted about Elshieky before he correctly identified the agents as being CBP employees.)
“One of these days, I hope people realize that the idea that ICE should be scrapped isn’t so crazy after all,” she tweeted.
The Cut has reached out to Elshieky for comment.