He’s been called lots of things: chief, deputy chief, officer, husband, son, dad, immigrant, American.
But none of those titles mattered when Hassan Aden landed on U.S. soil earlier this month in Trump’s America. All that mattered was that his name is Hassan. And that, apparently, was enough for U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers to question everything else about Aden’s life.
Aden, 52, is a retired Greenville, N.C., police chief and a former deputy chief with the Alexandria police in Virginia.
So why was a lifelong law enforcement official detained for an hour and a half at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport when he returned from a trip to Paris? Was he being profiled because of his Muslim-sounding first name?
Hassan is an immigrant, the Italian-born son of an Italian mother and a Somali father. He has lived in this country for 42 years and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He has a U.S. passport and TSA Pre-check. He’s been out of the country dozens of times without incident. Not this time.
“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,” Aden wrote in a long Facebook post describing the unnerving detention. “This experience makes me question if this is indeed home.”
A spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection denied that officers were engaging in profiling. In an email to my Post colleague Faiz Siddiqui, she said the agency bars race and ethnicity from being considered in screening “in all but the most exceptional circumstances.”
So what was exceptional about a retired cop coming home from celebrating his mother’s 80th birthday? One thing: his first name.
Aden was treated shamefully. The America that stops Chief Aden, locks him in a room and judges him is an America filled with fear and ignorance, not “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Want to say this is about terrorism?
Give. Us. A. Break.
This guy’s a cop. He knows what’s up.
“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,’ ”Aden wrote. “No one is safe from this type of unlawful government intrusion.”
An agent told him that “my name was used as an alias by someone on some watch list. He stated that he sent my information to another agency to de-conflict and clear me, so that I could gain passage into the United States . . . my own country!!!”
After about an hour, another officer saw the situation, swooped in, pressed for status updates, cleared him within a half-hour and apologized. She understood what was going on.
Something very similar happened twice in a month to Muhammad Ali Jr., son of the former heavyweight champion. Most recently, he was detained at Reagan National Airport on March 10. Chris Mancini, his attorney, said Ali was trying to board a JetBlue flight when security officials rejected his identification and repeatedly asked where he was from.
No mention of a watch list. A name was all they had to go on. (And what a name. Duh.)
The ultimate irony: Ali and his mother had come to Washington to lobby for an end to racial profiling.
If names are now the criterion being used to keep America safe, let’s do it right and take a good look at other names of those who have terrorized our country.
James. Men named James set the standard for homegrown terrorist shootings in America.
We can start with James Earl Ray, the man who assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. One of the forefathers of the modern American mass shooting is James Oliver Huberty, who killed 21 people at a McDonald’s in San Ysidro, Calif., in 1984.
Ever heard the term “going postal”? You guessed it — a trend brought to you by a James. In 1983, disgruntled postal worker James Brooks shot the postmaster and injured his supervisor in the Anniston, Ala., post office where he had worked.
The former employee shooting up a workplace? Ah, yes, James D. Simpson killed five co-workers, including the bosses, in a Corpus Christi, Tex., office in 1995.
And, of course, there’s James Holmes, who in 2012 shot up the audience in a dark movie theater in Aurora, Colo., killing 12 people.
Wow. Maybe we can only keep America safe if we stop James. Every single one of them.
So maybe stopping someone because their name sounds suspicious isn’t legal, moral or even American.
Yup, that’s what I thought.
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