Juhel Miah is not from any of the seven countries listed in Donald Trump’s immigration ban. But he is Muslim. Miah was denied entry to the US last week, saying he was “made to feel like a criminal,” and now Welsh officials are demanding an explanation for what appears to be anti-Muslim discrimination from the US government.
A federal court suspended Trump’s immigration ban order on February 10, but foreigners remain on high alert as border officials continue to target people from those countries. However, Miah is a British citizen of Bangladeshi descent, and therefore should not be affected by the order at all.
The 25-year-old math teacher had a valid visa and was traveling among a group of teachers escorting students on a field trip to the US on February 16. When he got to the airport in Reykjavik, however, airport security pulled him aside for a random search.
“She took me to the room, made me stand on a stool, take my shoes off, jacket off, checked under my foot, got a swab to brush over my hand and bag, my clothing and school hoodie,” Miah told Wales Online. “They gave me the all clear and then I went. The search was about five minutes at least. There were five or six people in the room, two searched me.”
He was cleared to go, but just before boarding his connecting Icelandic Air flight to New York City, another official (who was not affiliated with the airline) escorted him away.
“Everyone was looking at me,” Miah said. “As I was getting my luggage the teachers and kids were confused. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I was being escorted out. It made me feel like a criminal. I couldn’t speak, I was lost for words.”
Miah said he was taken to a grimy hotel room before his school booked a flight back to the UK.
“My phone battery was dying so I went to my suitcase, and that’s when I realized the padlock was missing. It had gone. I was so paranoid, I was scared, I didn’t sleep or eat for two days,” he said.
The Neath Port Talbot Borough County Council is “appalled” and is demanding an explanation from the US embassy in London.
“No satisfactory reason has been provided for refusing entry to the United States–either at the airport in Iceland or subsequently at the US embassy in Reykjavik. Mr Miah attempted to visit the embassy but was denied access to the building. Understandably he feels belittled and upset at what appears to be an unjustified act of discrimination,” said a council spokesman.
Christina Rees, Neath Member of Parliament, is taking up the issue with Prime Minister Theresa May, the the UK Foreign Secretary, and the US Embassy.
“Mr Miah was subjected to a humiliating and distressing experience, not only preventing him from boarding his plane to New York or entering the US Embassy in Iceland, but also stranding him in a foreign country whilst his fellow travelers continued on their journey,” she said. “This also led to a potentially serious situation where a risk assessed trip was left with one teacher down, raising questions about the effect on the safeguarding of the children.”
Meanwhile, based on the decisions of the federal court, the White House is busy drafting a new travel ban that targets the same seven Muslim countries.