Jordanian teen caught up in extra scrutiny after travel ban

AP News
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Posted: Feb 02, 2017 2:50 PM

HOUSTON (AP) — A Jordanian teenager who has been held for five days after flying to Houston might have been detained due to heightened scrutiny following President Donald Trump's executive order to curb immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, according to attorneys.

Mohammad Abu Khadra remained in custody Thursday at a detention center in Chicago after being detained at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport on Saturday, the Houston Chronicle reported (http://bit.ly/2jBona2 ).

Mohammad is from Jordan — not one of the seven countries included in the order. But Ali Zakaria, an attorney representing Mohammad's family, said it appears that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are tagging travelers from other Muslim-majority countries for secondary security screenings, and that Mohammad might have revealed he was enrolled at a Houston-area high school, a violation of his tourist visa.

"Even if it's visa violation, that doesn't mean he should have been sitting at the airport for 48 hours and transferred to Chicago, away from his family, where it will take several days or weeks to reunite them," Zakaria told the newspaper.

The 16-year-old, who lives in the Houston suburb of Katy with his brother, Rami, is among dozens of visa holders and immigrants who were detained at U.S. airports after Trump signed the order prohibiting citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States for 90 days. The order also indefinitely bars all Syrian refugees from entering the United States and suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days.

Sabah Rafie, a spokeswoman for the Jordanian foreign ministry, said Jordanian authorities are following up on the situation with Mohammad with U.S. officials and the teenager will be freed when the situation allows and when it is safe.

"Rejecting his entry is not connected to Trump's recent decision," she said.

Zakaria did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press on Thursday.

Michael Olivas, an attorney with immigration expertise who's not connected to the case, said that while it does not appear that Mohammad's case is directly related Trump's executive order, increased scrutiny of travelers from Muslim-majority countries appears to be a side effect.

"They could send him back or could have had him come in if he promised not take classes once he was advised of the rule," Olivas said. "He seems a little caught up in the drama of all of this."