Retired police chief detained at JFK airport ‘because his name sounded Muslim’

A retired police chief says he was detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport and held for 90 minutes earlier this month because of his name.
Hassan Aden, 52, of Alexandria, Virginia spent 26 years with the Alexandria Police Department before leaving in 2012 to become chief of police in Greenville, North Carolina. 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.
When he arrived at customs at JFK, 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 replied he was and the officer said, “Let’s take a walk,” in Aden’s recollection.
“I was like ‘oh boy, here we go’ ” said Aden, an Italian-born naturalized American citizen who has lived in the United States for 42 years.
He said he was escorted to a makeshift office, prohibited from using his cellphone and given little information about the reason for the holdup. At one point, Aden said he asked an officer how much time could pass for a detention to be considered reasonable. The officer replied that Aden wasn’t being detained.
But inside the room, where there were three desks staffed by CBP employees and two dozen chairs, 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.
Aden is the son of an Italian mother and Somali father. He lamented what he describes as the country’s shift toward “cold, unwelcoming” policies such as President Donald 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.
The travel ban, which seeks to block entry to the U.S. by people from six Muslim-majority countries, is on hold after two judges issued rulings blocking it.
While he is not Muslim, Aden said such policies – and the attached rhetoric – could lead to attitudes that would make authorities suspicious of his name.

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