American composer Mohammed Fairouz whose work has been performed at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center arrived off a London – New York JFK flight.
Agents “took away [his] luggage and [..] laptop” and told him he could not use his phone. He was told to “sit in a plastic chair without the ability to listen to music or read a book.” He was told this “could take hours.”
In those three and a half hours I could have written a short piano etude or edited a movement from my now overdue song cycle with string quartet. But instead of allowing me to quietly get on with something productive, I was barked at to “SIT DOWN” by officers who every so often would loudly remind the people going through screening that “NOBODY LEAVES THIS ROOM WITHOUT CLEARANCE”.
He was eventually allowed to leave after four hours. The only reason he was given for being detained was that “his name is ‘super common.'”
Of course the US government has his fingerprints which were scanned. He used “the Automated Passport Control machine and scanned [..] documents and fingerprints (all of which were recognised)” which should have satisfied his identity.
Fairouz does not see his treatment as a function of the Trump administration, he is ‘sure’ this happened under the Obama administration as well. He says, “I’m not making a racial argument. What I’m saying is that we have a f—– up system and they’re treating people very, very badly.”
I don’t know why this US citizen was detained on return to the U.S. Whether the real reason was legitimate or not, we can treat people with respect (even kindness), work to clear them expeditiously, and allow them to be as comfortable and productive as possible while they wait.