Former Greenville, North Carolina, Police Chief Hassan Aden was returning to the United States from France after celebrating his mother’s 80th birthday in Paris when something unusual happened: An immigration officer at John F. Kennedy International Airport singled him out and approached him as he was standing in a line. The official asked if Aden was traveling alone and then said, “Let’s take a walk.”
“I was taken to a back office which looked to be a re-purposed storage facility with three desks and signs stating, ‘Remain seated at all times’ and ‘Use of telephones strictly prohibited’ — my first sign that this was not a voluntary situation and, in fact, a detention,” the ex-cop wrote in a harrowing Facebook post. “By this point I had informed CBP Officer Chow, the one that initially detained me, that I was a retired police chief and a career police officer AND a U.S. citizen — he stated that he had no control over the circumstance and that it didn’t matter what my occupation was.”
When Aden, who has spent 30 years on police force, asked why he was being held, an official told him he was not being detained — despite the fact that the former cop’s movements were restricted to a chair and he was not allowed to leave or contact his wife, informing her of his predicament.
The customs officer stripped Aden of his possessions and handed his passport to another officer, who explained his name was used “as an alias by someone on some watch list,” adding they were waiting for another agency to clear the former chief’s name so he could gain passage to his own country.
“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 continued. “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.”
Aden further wrote how he has taken countless overseas trips without an issue. However, since President Donald Trump took the office, things have changed.
“As I continued to sit in the CBP makeshift Detention Center, watching numerous foreign nationals enter my country while I couldn’t, I began thinking about my numerous trips abroad — including five in the past year (all prior to inauguration) — with no problems upon my return and complete with the warm greeting of ‘Welcome home,’” the post read.
Aden, who has since gone on to consult with the Department of Justice and federal courts, said he was held at JFK for over 90 minutes and was able to catch his flight to Washington, D.C., with only minutes to spare.
“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,” he wrote, adding that he had contacted his senators about the incident. “High levels of hate and injustice have been felt in vulnerable communities for decades — it is now hitting the rest of America.”
Aden, who has a Somali father and an Italian mother, said what happened with him “can happen to anyone with attributes that can be ‘profiled.’”
“No one is safe from this type of unlawful government intrusion,” he concluded.
Turns out, in Trump’s America — where people are judged based on their sect, religion and race — even law enforcement officials are not safe from blatant discrimination.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Mike Segar