Call it What it Is: Racial Profiling At the Border

Gabor Bata @batabing_bataboom

Since the Trump administration first announced the travel ban barring anyone from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, things have changed at the US border.

Typically, no one really looks forward to crossing the border. It can be a lengthy, tedious process that makes just about anyone uneasy, even if they’ve done nothing wrong at all.

Recently, however, getting through the border has become a challenge, particularly for people of colour. There have been several cases of individuals being denied entry into the United States based on their race. The problem only seems to be getting worse, and racial profiling at the border has become a recurring issue since the travel ban was first introduced.

Just last week, a Montreal-born Canadian of Indian heritage was told she wouldn’t be able to get into the United States without a valid visa, despite the fact that she was travelling with her Canadian passport and has no criminal record. Interestingly enough, her two white friends weren’t questioned at all. The woman was even asked about her views on Donald Trump.

Not long ago, around mid-February, a Muslim teacher coming from the UK on a school trip was also denied entry into the United States, and was treated like a downright criminal. After being searched and taken to a dirty, run down hotel for the night, the schoolteacher was only able to catch a flight back to the UK the following day.

Just a few weeks before that, a Canadian university student of Moroccan descent was pulled aside at the border and questioned. After five hours of questioning about topics such as where he was born, his faith, his parents, countries he has been to, and more, he was told he would not be able to join his team in travelling to the United States for a track-and-field meet. Despite having a Canadian passport, authorities told him he did not have the right documents.

These are only some of many examples of cases where people are being assessed, questioned, and turned away from the border based, most likely, on their race. In each of these cases, being denied entry into the country has caused major turmoil for those who are affected, and those who are being treated so wrongly have thrown around a common thought.

“I feel like I’ve done something wrong.”

“It made me feel like a criminal.”

The current issues at the border seem to have developed from not only the Islamophobia but also the overall xenophobia being spread in recent months—causing this to become an increasingly large problem. We have reached a point where citizens of just about any country are fearful when crossing the border, particularly those who are part of minority groups. The thought of being fingerprinted, detained, and questioned over the course of several hours, on the basis of virtually nothing but racial profiling, would deter anyone from visiting the United States.

The original travel ban was found to be unconstitutional and is no longer in place, although a new one is on its way. Since talk of a ban began, it seems to have sparked a wave of blatant racism that has long been hiding behind closed doors. Although the ban was meant to affect a number of Muslim countries, countries from all around the world have been affected.

The problem does not stop at the border. There have been many incidents surrounding Islamophobia, particularly here in Quebec, that force us to wonder what the Donald Trump presidency might be causing.

Innocent people cannot be made out to be criminals. It is undeniable that these cases of people with appropriate documentation being denied entry to the US are racially motivated. There is no arguing that telling a Canadian woman she requires a visa, when she has lived her entire life in Montreal, is a sign that something is seriously wrong.

In an age where we are supposed to have made so much progress, and supposed to have reached new levels of acceptance and equality, the treatment of minority groups in recent months leads to serious questions about whether we have truly progressed or not. To many, it appears we are in fact regressing to old ways.

At this time, it is key that we all stand in solidarity with those innocent people who are being treated as though they have done something wrong. Being a minority does not make you a criminal. We cannot allow people to be discriminated against based on the colour of their skin.