In January 2019, a Libyan-born Portland comedian said he was traveling through Spokane on a bus ride home when U.S. Border Patrol agents wrongfully detained and interrogated him about his immigration status.
Two years later, the federal government has agreed to pay Mohanad Elshieky $35,000 in a settlement, according to a news release from the Northwest Immigration Rights Project (NWIRP), which provided Elshieky counsel.
In Elshieky’s viral Twitter thread published the day of the interrogation, Elshieky said he was at the Spokane Intermodal Center riding home on a Greyhound bus after performing at Washington State University.
Federal agents boarded the bus and walked around before they asked Elshieky and a few others to step off the bus, he wrote. They interrogated Elshieky for about 20 minutes, calling his papers fake and him “illegal,” he wrote.
The agents then insisted he should have been carrying his asylum papers, though he had already provided the agents his work permit and driver’s license, he wrote.
“I’ll never forget the harassment and humiliation by the officers when it was clear I belonged in the United States and on that bus,” Elshieky said in the NWIRP release. “To have the same government that is supposed to protect me accuse me of lying and being here illegally really shook me and undermined my hard-fought sense of safety.”
Andres Sosa Segura, who filed suit separately over a similar experience at the Spokane Intermodal Center in 2017, will also be awarded $35,000, the release said.
The NWIRP described both interrogations as part of a pattern of discriminatory practices by Border Patrol agents who routinely harass people of color at the bus stop in Spokane.
Sosa Segura was on a bus ride home from Montana to Washington in 2017 when agents stopped him as he tried to transfer buses, the release said. The agents demanded his “papers.” After Sosa Segura presented a “Know Your Rights” card and invoked his right to an attorney, agents arrested him. They drove him to a facility an hour and a half’s drive from Spokane for interrogation and held him for hours, the release said.
“The hours I spent detained for no reason were terrifying, and all I wanted was to be with my family,” Sosa Segura said in the release. “I hope that this case sends a message that CBP agents need to respect the rights of people like me.”
The two men said they hope their lawsuits will prevent future harassment by Border Patrol agents.
During the litigation, the United States produced an agency memorandum saying Border Patrol agents need permission from a bus company or bus driver to board and cannot temporarily detain persons at bus stations without reasonable suspicion, the release said.
“I hope my experience can at least be a wake-up call for others,” Elshieky said in the release.
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