The stories of travelers being held up by customs officers when arriving in the United States keep coming, and now include someone with decades of experience as a law enforcement officer. Hassan Aden, who was the police chief in Greenville, North Carolina, for two years, says he was held at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport for an hour and a half earlier this week.
From the Washington Post:
Hassan Aden, 52, of Alexandria spent 26 years with the Alexandria Police Department before leaving in 2012 to become chief of police in Greenville, N.C. He retired from the 250-person force in 2015.
Aden says he was returning from Paris on March 13, where he had been celebrating his mother’s 80th birthday.
Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington-based independent police think tank that focuses on public policy issues, said Aden — who is a member of the organization — was treated unfairly.
“I know Hassan. When he was a police chief and also when he was deputy chief in Alexandria. . . . What I read was, he wasn’t questioning them stopping him and asking him questions. What he questioned was why it took an hour and a half to resolve the situation,” Wexler said.
Aden said that he is a frequent traveler and that when his wife worried that something like this might happen in advance of his trip, he shrugged it off, thinking “no way.”
Aden, who uses TSA PreCheck, sailed through security and made his afternoon flight to the District, he said. As the ordeal unfolded, Aden said, “I wondered about others. What happens to people when they don’t know any better?”
“I’m sure it’s terrorizing a lot of people and not making us any safer.”
Wexler, too, raised concerns about the treatment of everyday citizens. “It really doesn’t matter whether Hassan was a police officer or former deputy chief,” Wexler. “What matters is that he should have been treated with respect.”
And from Mr. Aden himself:
I spent nearly 30 years serving the public in law enforcement. Since I retired as the Chief of Police in Greenville, NC, I founded a successful consulting firm that is involved in virtually every aspect of police and criminal justice reform. I interface with high level U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Court officials almost daily. Prior to this administration, I frequently attended meetings at the White House and advised on national police policy reforms-all that to say that If this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone with attributes that can be “profiled”. No one is safe from this type of unlawful government intrusion.
As I left the CBP makeshift detention center, I had to go back through security to catch my next flight back to DC, ironically, due to my weekly air travel, I have TSA Pre-check and was whisked through security without a hitch and made my flight by minutes.
This experience has left me feeling vulnerable and unsure of the future of a country that was once great and that I proudly called my own. This experience makes me question if this is indeed home. My freedoms were restricted, and I cannot be sure it won’t happen again, and that it won’t happen to my family, my children, the next time we travel abroad. This country now feels cold, unwelcoming, and in the beginning stages of a country that is isolating itself from the rest of the world - and its own people - in an unprecedented fashion. High levels of hate and injustice have been felt in vulnerable communities for decades-it is now hitting the rest of America.
I have contacted my US senators, and my contacts at the NYT and other media sources to continue to tell the story of what is happening in the United States of America.