German soccer player with Afghan parents reportedly detained at a US airport – Washington Post

A German-born soccer player who plays for Afghanistan’s national team said she was detained at a U.S. airport for several hours Monday, but given no explanation why.

“I was asking, ‘Why?’ ” Mena Ahmadi told Fusion.net on Wednesday about her ordeal at Houston International Airport on Monday. “Maybe [I was detained] because my parents are from Afghanistan? I didn’t have anything suspicious about the reason I [was coming] here.”

The 20-year-old, who is in the United States to attend a training camp for the amateur-level Women’s Premier Soccer League, said in the past year she’d previously traveled to the United States twice and never experienced any problems. As with her latest trips, both of those trips also pertained to soccer.

On Wednesday, however, Ahmadi described the Customs and Border Patrol officers she dealt with as “really weird,” noting they asked her about whether she paid for her own flight as well as if she would be paid to compete in the WPSL this summer.

Ahmadi, who Fusion’s Anne Branigin reports has hopes of one day playing soccer at the university level in the United States and therefore must remain an unpaid amateur, said agents never gave her a clear answer to why she was being questioned.

“He was not really listening to me. He was just saying, ‘Oh, verifying something,’ ” she said. “I didn’t get the noun exactly. I didn’t really know the word. It was a really brief answer.”

Meanwhile, one of Ahmadi’s national team coaches, Haley Carter, waited at the airport Monday to collect the player. Carter expressed her frustration over the situation on social media that night, noting she was especially surprised about Ahmadi’s long detainment given that the player traveled with a German passport and had a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) certification, which should have gained her seamless entry into the United States.

Carter revealed on Twitter that CBP held Ahmadi for four hours and not only questioned her about her monetary situation, but also about whom she would be staying with in the country and who was there to pick her up.

While Carter said the CBP officer she approached to ask about Ahmadi’s situation was a “very polite gentleman,” she too wasn’t provided a straight answer as to why the player was detained in the first place.

Carter told Fusion that she suspected Ahmadi was racially profiled, as a result over confusion she said that may have been caused by President Trump’s two executive orders pertaining to immigration signed earlier this year. Both of those orders were subsequently blocked by federal courts.

“If she had been a little lighter in skin color, and had a Western name … with a German-born, German passport with a valid ESTA, she likely would not have been questioned about coming to play soccer,” Carter said.

CBP officers, meanwhile, said they could not immediately comment on Ahmadi’s situation but said they would look into it.

Ahmadi’s detainment comes just days after an American composer was detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York while attempting to re-enter the country from London.

Mohammed Fairouz, a U.S. citizen who was born in the United Arab Emirates, said he was also held for four hours and not given a reason. He blamed his name. However, in a statement to The Post on Tuesday, CBP officers said surveillance video showed Fairouz was detained for less than an hour. CBP officers did not comment on allegations that Fairouz’s name was the cause of his hold up, but said instead that all people are subject to further investigation when entering or re-entering the country.

Muhammad Ali Jr., son of the famous boxer of the same name, has also accused CBP of racially profiling him when he was held up twice this year at airports, first in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and again at Reagan National Airport outside of Washington. He chalked both instances up to his “Arabic-sounding name,” however, CBP officers denied that was the case.

“CBP does not discriminate based on religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation,” the agency said in an email to The Post. “We treat all travelers with respect and sensitivity. Integrity is our cornerstone. We are guided by the highest ethical and moral principles.”

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