A group of young black Canadians on their way to see Barack Obama sworn into office say they were detained for seven hours at the U.S. border on Monday because of religious and racial stereotyping as their passports were checked and rechecked.
They eventually made it to Washington yesterday to see the inauguration of the 44th president.
Tyrone Edwards, organizer of the three-bus trip to Washington for black youth involved in the Toronto-based Remix Project, a cultural non-profit group, said 168 people from local non-profit groups made the 800-kilometre trek.
The buses left Toronto on Monday morning but were stopped at the Peace Bridge just outside Buffalo at around 1 p.m.
Speaking to the Star by phone, Edwards, the 27-year-old head of Remix, said the first bus cleared customs, as did the second bus, where he was seated. But the third bus was boarded by U.S. customs officers who asked about 14 young girls, all wearing hijabs, for their passports. Because Edwards was the organizer of the trip, he kept the second bus waiting until the third cleared customs. Initially he thought it would just be a short delay.
But after the girls' passports were taken, customs officers boarded the second bus again and asked for Edwards' passport as well as the passport of colleague and seatmate Adel Prince Nur.
The customs agents also asked for the passports of two sisters on the second bus. Their last name was Mohammed, Edwards said.
All of them – who all held Canadian passports – were then fingerprinted, photographed and questioned by U.S. customs officers.
"There was no legitimate reason to hold us up. They wasted a lot of time."
Edwards was born in Canada, but all the others were either born in Somalia or Saudi Arabia, he said. And their Canadian passports listed their place of birth. That's why he thinks the buses were detained.
At one point, he said, a U.S. officer showed two girls on the bus some pictures and asked them if they recognized three Somali men. They told the officer they weren't from Somalia, but Trinidad, Edwards said.
He believes the only reason the two girls were questioned was because they were wearing hijabs. [More here.]
Thank goodness Obama's inauguration means an end to racism! We can be sure this kind of thing won't be happening anymore.
I know I'm not usually sarcastic, but damn, sometimes there's just nothing else to do.