Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Blog

By Danielle Malaty

In the midst of the controversy circling Arizona’s SB 1070 and the fight over the power to regulate immigration, the prevalence of racial profiling is certainly not limited to Arizona. Residents of Dearborn, Michigan are also on the receiving end of racial profiling. Wissam Charafeddine, an Arab American recently interviewed by Arab American News, has a shocking amount of experience with Customs Border Protection (CBP) officers at the U.S.-Canada border after having been handcuffed and detained there so many times.  "I know the officers and their names," he said. During one of his cross border trips, he found himself guiding a new CBP officer through the process of taking fingerprints according to protocol because he had grown so accustomed to the procedure.

Since 2008, Charafeddine has been making frequent trips to Canada from the Detroit area since 2008, and he can confidently say that upon every return, or attempt to return, he has been handcuffed and detained for up to eight hours. Charafeddine has a perfectly clean record and is a successful businessman, and works closely with his community’s public school district. It has gotten to the point where he must be unreasonably cautious because of his past encounters  at the U.S.-Canada border and even more so when he travels by plane. Every time he asks the authorities why he is being detained, he must settle with the same response: “it’s standard procedure.”

While Charafeddine is in CBP custody, the officials almost always search intensely throughout his car, and he is forced to undergo a body search while family awaits him in a room with security officials. Charafeddine has often been asked whether he's a Sunni or Shiite Muslim; at which Mosque he prays; the name of his Imam, and whether he's supported or funded political groups in Dearborn. “Basically it’s the story of my life,” he explained.  "Even the officer was rolling his eyes because of the questions he had to ask me.” Charafeddine told the interviewer that he is usually asked close to 100 questions, and says he feels like every time he is being interrogated during the questioning, the officers take written record of his body language.

Despite the measures taken over the last year in an effort to raise awareness on racial profiling occurring at the borders, reports of these incidents continue to emerge in the public eye. Charafeddine told interviewers that he plans on never returning to Canada. Thus far he has had to miss a funeral and various family weddings, but explains that his family understands why he is absent, as they know what he has to deal with every time he attempts to cross the border. Charafeddine has begun his own campaign against this unconstitutional conduct by filing complaints with the US Department of Homeland Security, writing to elected officials, and consulting with several civil rights groups. "I'm not stopping," he said.

comments powered by Disqus