Photojournalist Kim Badawi has a global family history but is an American citizen. Of Slovenian and Egyptian descent, Badawi was born in France, frequently works in the Middle East, and is currently based in Brazil, but his parents are both Americans and he received full citizenship at birth.
Despite his blue U.S. passport, though, Badawi claims he was detained at Miami International Airport for ten hours and endured "physiological torture" Sunday while on his way home to visit family in Texas for Thanksgiving,
Badawi chronicled his harrowing experience on Twitter.
Immigration, so called #homeland-security, lied to my loved ones about my whereabouts -suggesting I never boarded flight from Rio to Miami.— kimbadawi (@kimbadawi) November 22, 2015
Arrived at Miami International Airport over 14 hours ago. Was happy to hear so many languages. I thought that was America. #LandoftheFree ?— kimbadawi (@kimbadawi) November 23, 2015
U.S. Customs and Border Protection declines to discuss individual cases but released a general statement related to Badawi's claims, essentially noting that the agency has the right to stop and question anyone.
“There are many reasons CBP officers decide to examine someone; some referrals for additional screening are for reasons other than information in law enforcement databases, such as the individual’s circumstances of travel or random selection," the agency says in a statement. "CBP does not assume that travelers have done anything wrong — because very few travelers actually violate the law."
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According to his website, Badawi began his work as a photojournalist in 2005 by documenting the "plight of refugee families from Mississippi to Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina." His work has since appeared in publications including the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, and Newsweek.
Badawi tells Buzzfeed he was traveling with a partner from Brazil to Texas but was stopped by Homeland Security officials while trying to make his connecting flight at MIA. He claims officials took his phone, went through his contacts, and refused to let him inform his family or girlfriend where he was.
Badawi also claims they asked him what his position on the Syrian refugee crisis was, if he knew anyone involved in the Paris terrorist attacks, and why he traveled throughout the Middle East so often.