Hassan Aden, a former Greenville, N.C., police chief, says he was detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport for 90 minutes this month because of his name, the Washington Post reports. Aden, 52, was a police officer in Alexandria, Va., a Washington, D.C., suburb, for 26 years. He was returning from Paris on March 13, where he had been celebrating his mother’s 80th birthday. He expected to be handed back his passport and told “welcome home” like everyone else. Instead, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer asked him: “Are you traveling alone?” Aden, an Italian-born naturalized U.S. citizen who has lived here for 42 years, replied he was and the officer said, “Let’s take a walk.” He said he was escorted to a makeshift office, prohibited from using his cellphone and given little information about the reason for the holdup.
Aden asked an officer how much time could pass for a detention to be considered reasonable. The officer replied that Aden wasn’t being detained. Inside the room, signs read “Remain seated at all times” and “Use of telephones strictly prohibited.” “Two signs that this was not voluntary; this was indeed a detention,” Aden said. He he told an officer he was a retired police chief and a career law enforcement officer, but the man said he had “no control” over the situation and it “didn’t matter” what his job was. Another officer explained that someone on a “watch list” had used Aden’s name as an alias, and his information was being cross-checked with another agency. Aden, the son of an Italian mother and Somali father, lamented the shift toward “cold, unwelcoming” policies such as President Trump’s travel ban. “It just feels like ever since the talk of the travel ban it’s like now there’s actually — there’s some tangible experience . . . of that talk,” he said.