Muslim woman rejected at Vermont border

Highgate border crossing

U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s border crossing in Highgate. Photo courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Fadwa Alaoui, of Brossard, Quebec, has been to Vermont many times on shopping expeditions, and Saturday she hoped to buy a toy for her 5-year-old son, who had finished his last chemotherapy session.

But she and her cousin came away from the U.S. border empty-handed, according to CBC News.

Alaoui told CBC News on Wednesday that Customs and Border Protection officials at the port of entry in Highgate asked her to pull over for an interview and surrender her phone. The questions were about her Muslim faith and what she thinks of Donald Trump’s immigration policies, according to the report.

Alaoui, who was born in Morocco and has Canadian citizenship, said she has lived in Canada for 20 years. In an interview with CBC News, she said border agents asked about what mosque she goes to, how frequently she attends and what the name of the imam is.

After a four-hour wait, she said, she was told the border agents were concerned about videos of prayers on her phone. They told her she was “inadmissible” to the United States and did not possess a valid visa.

Alaoui is a Canadian citizen with a valid passport through June 2018, according to the CBC News report. According to the Customs and Border Protection website, Canadian citizens can present a valid passport for entry into the U.S. by land.

The report comes on the heels of a Jan. 27 executive order issued by President Donald Trump banning most citizens of seven majority-Muslim nations from entering the United States. Morocco is not one of the countries on the list. The ban was followed by a court ruling in Seattle that temporarily stayed the order.

In a statement, David Long, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said he couldn’t talk about the experiences of individual travelers.

Long said the federal agency treats everyone with respect and “does not discriminate on the entry of foreign nationals to the United States based on religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.”

Many travelers are returned to the country they came from without being detained, he said. If travelers feel they have been mistreated, Long said, they can file a complaint at

Customs and Border Protection’s highest priority is to prevent terrorists from entering the United States. About a million people cross U.S. borders through 328 ports of entry every day. Between 300 and 500 people a day are not allowed into the country, Long said in an interview.

The office of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has made a formal inquiry into the allegations made by Alaoui and the people she was traveling with, according to spokesperson David Carle.

“[Leahy] is concerned about the confusion that the president’s sweeping executive order may be causing for both CBP officers and travelers,” Carle said. “Much of the order currently is on hold pending a decision from the Ninth Circuit.”

Leahy is waiting for a formal response from Customs and Border Protection, but he is troubled by the idea that the Trump administration would allow “profiling of travelers based on religion or nationality.”

Leahy introduced a religious anti-discrimination resolution this week, which affirms that no one should be blocked from entering the United States due to nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender.

“Adoption of this resolution simply reaffirms the basic principle that this country does not have a litmus test,” Leahy said in a statement. “It will also show that the Senate will not allow fear to undermine the very principles and values that we cherish and that we have sworn to defend.”

S.R.56 is sponsored by 30 senators and supported by Human Rights First, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Anne Galloway

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