A Happy Valley-Goose Bay man who was blocked from crossing the Canada-United States border over the weekend says an American border officer boasted to colleagues about denying entry to "Muhammads."
Muhammad Adeel Khan, who goes by his middle name, said he was planning to visit his fiancée in Washington, D.C. when he was stopped at the border between Quebec and New York.
Khan, who drove from his home in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, said he told the border guard the trip to Washington would only last for a day or two, then he'd continue on to Toronto to visit family.
"For some reason, he doesn't believe all that," Khan said. His passport and phone were seized and officers searched his car.
He said they came up with an alternate theory that he was trying to move to the United States and marry his fiancée, who has lived in the U.S. since childhood.
"I was absolutely shocked at this point," Khan said. "I visited in December and I had no problem whatsoever."
Khan said he told the officer of his job in Labrador, an upcoming family wedding in Toronto, and a pending real estate deal, but it was no use.
"How do you want me to prove that I'm returning to Canada? You're not believing that I'm going to my brother's wedding, you're not believing that I'm going to buy a house, so what else do you want me to tell you?" Khan asked the border officers.
Khan, who is originally from Pakistan, emigrated to Canada as a child and grew up in Toronto. He is a Canadian citizen and said he let his Pakistani passport lapse.
"[The border officer] kept asking me about … the place I was born," Khan said. "He just wanted to find some reason to deny me entry."
To add insult to injury, Khan said he heard the officer who interrogated him bragging to others about the encounter.
"He was very proud," Khan said. "I was hearing his conversation with his supervisor, where he was laughing about this, like, 'I stopped one of these ... Muhammads.'"
A spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the agency couldn't comment on specific cases but in a statement said officers are not allowed to discriminate against would-be visitors based on race or religion.
"CBP is committed to the fair, impartial and respectful treatment of all members of the trade and travelling public, and has memorialized its commitment to nondiscrimination in existing policies," the statement reads.
The spokesperson went on to say that any traveller who feels mistreated can file a complaint with the agency. Khan said he's thinking about it.
"They made me feel like, me being born in a different country is a crime, or me being born in a Muslim faith is a crime."
Khan, who drove to Toronto after being denied entry into the U.S., said he was never asked directly about his religion, but that it's "common sense."
"[The border officer] kept saying, 'Muhammad, Muhammad,'" Khan said. "The way that he was speaking to his superior, that made me realize, that's the reason I'm being denied entry."