NJ mayor says he was profiled at JFK airport for being Muslim
The mayor of Prospect Park has been speaking out against what he says was a racial profiling incident involving federal customs agents in New York — and him.
Mayor Mohamed Khairullah said during his family's return from a trip to Turkey this summer, "Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) kept me for almost three hours at JFK Airport with my wife and four children on Aug. 2."
"When I became fed up with their questions, they asked for my phone," he wrote on his the Facebook page he uses as mayor. "When they took it for too long, I told them that I don't consent to them searching my phone. They ended up keeping it for 12 days, saying that they have to inspect it."
A Customs and Border Patrol spokesperson said "CBP treats all international travelers with integrity, respect and professionalism while keeping the highest standards of security. All international travelers arriving to the U.S. are subject to CBP inspection."
A written statement from CBP also continues: "For a miniscule number of travelers, this inspection may include electronic devices such as computers, disks, drives, tapes, mobile phones and other communication devices, cameras, music and other media players and any other electronic or digital devices."
Khairullah shared a video of him talking over his airport detainment with a representative of the Council on American–Islamic Relations on Aug. 19.
On Sunday, he posted it to Youtube, as well, as seen below:
The Passaic County mayor told TIME magazine that while talking with CBP agents last month, they asked who he saw while in Turkey, and he said he met some of the nation's elected officials “because I’m really impressed by how they take care of their communities."
Khairullah also said to TIME that an agent then asked him whether he met any terrorists, at which point he said "no, and that I need to be speaking to my lawyer right now, and we ended the conversation there."
The CBP spokesman said the agency is "not at liberty to discuss an individual’s processing due to the Privacy Act," while noting CBP officers also enforce over 400 laws for 40 other agencies and have stopped thousands of violators of U.S. law.
U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. on Friday released a statement that said “Mayor Khairullah’s account describes profiling against Muslims. If he was targeted by authorities as a criminal or even a national security threat for no reason, the Mayor deserves answers on his detention. Whether someone is a longtime mayor, a Harvard freshman, or a regular Joe, this is America, and profiling is un-American."
According to his Facebook profile, Khairullah came to the U.S. in 1991, became a citizen in 2000 and an elected official the following year.
His re-election campaign website refers to Khairullah as "Meet the American Mayor who happens to be a Muslim."
He has previously spoken out about his family fleeing Syria in 1980.
In the same CBP statement, a spokesman said the agency "is keeping Americans safe by enforcing our nation’s laws in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully inspect all materials—electronic or otherwise—entering the United States. We are committed to preserving the rights and privacy of all people while conducting necessary and lawful actions to secure our borders."
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