Posted by: myautisticmuslimchild | January 19, 2012

Disney Dream Vacation part 3, Encounter with Border Patrol

I been contemplating  if I should continue to write about our vacation again. We certainly have mixed feelings, and try to  remember the good only, but I feel that some experiences need to be shared, rather its good or bad. So here is the conclusion of our vacation.

After our Castaway Cay Island adventure we walked back to the ship to get ready for Amin’s private party, given by the “Make a wish” foundation. The kids were full of energy, despite all the activities we had on the island, and they were looking forward to participate in the party.

Captain Gus visited the deck to say some nice words to all the kids  who were enjoying the Wish foundation’s hospitality.

After the captain we had another special visitor…  it was Mickey Mouse.

The kids were in cloud nine, and it warmed my heart to see Amin  and Safiyya enjoying themselves. I do not think I can ever thank the Wish foundation enough  for this wonderful gift. After the snack and fun, we left to have more fun, and to prepare for the “pirate night”.  We enjoyed a great night with full of fun and laughter, and declared that this was probably the greatest vacation we ever had. It was sad packing up to leave the next morning, but as everything else, nothing lasts forever. We had our last breakfast at the Enchanted garden restaurant, and said our good byes to our waitresses with mixed feelings.

As we were leaving the ship, we were talking about our adventures, little that we know, that our biggest adventure is just began. As we left the ship, we had to turn in our “world card” where they scan it, and let you go to customs. Apparently we were profiled and singled out due to our religion,(which they admitted downstairs) and we were abruptly sent to the side, and sternly told not to move, and stay there until a guard comes up to escort us where they want us to go. Here we are shocked and in disbelief, yet I am trying to hide my disappointment, fear, and trying to reassure the children that everything is going to be OK. The person who was “guarding “us until the armed guard came  was not anything of reassuring. I knew my kids were frightened, and I know my heart was racing a million beats  a minute.  I tried to replay the whole vacation in my head, and see what we might had done or said to deserve such a treatment, but other than having fun I could not pinpoint anything. My autistic son grew increasingly anxious, my typical daughter started to be scared and asking questions I could not answer. I found myself unable to comfort my own kids, I just did not know how, and what to say. We were silent and scared.

Finally the armed guard came to escort us downstairs. This young man was actually a nice human being, and started to talk to the kids to ease their fears. He made a joke , that this is a good thing what is happening to us, because this way we do not have to stand in a long line to go trough customs. I guess that is one way to look at the situation to keep ourselves sane, but this “friendly” encounter did not last  too long. As he dropped us off in some secluded room, behind all the counters away from everyone, our passports and all form of IDs were taken away from us. We did not exist at that point, and the feeling was frightening. I watched this type of stuff on TV before, and I heard about it, but it never happened to me. I never been profiled, as I am a white person, and I never experienced any kind of discrimination from authorities. There were questioning, and some ugly statements being said. My biggest fear was that my son will have a meltdown that can put us in more difficulties. I knew that he had to go to the bathroom, and I was afraid to ask the agents for a bathroom break. Than I realized if I do not stand up for my kids even if it is a bathroom break, than I am not even worthy of being their mother. So I asked them if they would allow us to go, and after some convincing we were able to go with an escort. I had to explain  my son’s behaviors over and over again. Why he is not telling his age, why he is getting anxious, and why he is so uneasy. While they were making copies of  every page of our passports,  ID, and credit cards I wondered how I will explain this to my kids. I know Safiyya understands everything, but I was not sure how much Amin will understand. I was searching in my head what word should I use and how to reassure them, and take away their fear. I was completely helpless, and I was completely unable to reassure anyone. This whole experience did not make any sense.

I want to make it clear to everyone, that I am always been an advocate of making our country safe and secure. So for me to go 2 hrs before my plane leaves was never an issue, and I never complained about being scanned. My complain about the Border Patrol agency is the way they went about this procedure. We were treated like criminals, escorted with an armed guard in front of thousands of people into some hole in a wall secluded from civilization, made ugly remarks in front of minors, taken all  of our rights away, including our identity. I realized that federal agencies desperately needing of education about autism, so they can see that one doesn’t hide anything from them, it just comes with the  disorder that these kids have.

I want them to learn that fear tactic will create an unmeasurable anxiety in autistic individuals, and they can not control their actions while they are put in a hostile circumstance. About a few weeks ago, one of the person on twitter posted how some state agencies getting educated about autism. I was so happy to see that they taking the initiative, and I was so sad that our government does not require federal agents to learn about these disorders, so they can better understand these individuals, and they can  treat them with respect and dignity.

After a while they let us go, without explanation, and a sorry excuse from one of the agent that they are doing their job. Also, he told us that we should not be so sensitive, because when he is driving he is profiled  many times. I am not sure if this is supposed to make me and my minor children feel better, but honestly I do not care. What I do care about is our life was destroyed with their arrogance, ignorance and inhuman treatment. My children are scared, and could not sleep until we actually had to leave the country. I had to leave my home, my country, so the children can rest and not to be scared that they will be escorted away with another armed guard. I feel cheated by my government who allows these agents to oppress people like myself and my family. There is a way to do things, in a human respectable way, and the inhuman arrogant way like I was experiencing back in November.

So as they said our “Disney Dream Vacation turned into a Nightmare”…   not so fast people. I was raised to always look at the positive side of things, and that is how I raise my children too. For a while we did not look at the pictures or discussed anything about our vacation. Now, we started looking at all of our pictures, talking about our adventures, and talking about the ignorance of the federal agents as well.

We moved from our country where we were citizens, and now we are living in a place where we are called expatriates. My son has no services here, no school, no therapy. Some say it was a rush decision, but the people who knows me what I do for my kids can tell you that if I made this decision, it was for a very good reason. I never made rush decisions regards to my kids , but this was an absolute necessity. I pray, that no other autistic child will experience this kind of treatment, and I pray that our government will wake up soon, and require their agents to educate themselves about disorders like autism, so they can treat these individuals and their families with respect, and without suspicion.

I would like to think that one day we will go home, and we will never have to worry about being profiled and discriminated because of our religion. My son and my family has enough to deal with, and the people who should make us feel safe should never impose fear on anyone. I hope soon all state, and federal agencies will make it mandatory to learn about disabilities so they can serve their citizens better. I do not feel angry, but I do feel great sadness for what happened.

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Responses

  1. Salam,

    Sorry to hear of your awful experience with border patrol. My brother also had a nasty encounter with them en route to a holiday in Mexico and it was due to religious and racial profiling. Alhamdullilah his children weren’t with him so he had less to worry about but he also said he was treated like a criminal and everyone at the airport was rude and hostile.

    By the way, have you heard of the film ‘My name is Khan’? It’s a fictitious Indian film about an Autistic Muslim man living in the US in the aftermath of September 11th, the upheaval his family go through and getting arrested and mistreated and so on. I haven’t seen it myself, only the trailer and some clips but heard that it’s pretty good. Ironically the actor who played the role of Khan was held (in real life) and interrogated at the airport as soon as he arrived in the US to promote his film.

    So where are you now? And where do you plan to go from here as far as the kids’ schooling and all the other practical stuff is concerned? Do you know people or have a support system where you are?

    • salams Neelu,
      Glad to hear from you. Well it was an interesting and life-changing experience, I never been discriminated before. I guess its a first time for everything. I certainly developed more compassion for people who had been discriminated before.
      I am homeschooling my son, I do not have therapy here or any other service, but his old school helping me and giving me consultation, which really helps me a lot.
      I do know about the movie that you mentioned, but never had a chance to watch it. Everyone said it is a good movie, so I think i will make a time to see it very soon. maybe that will help me to make sense of these whole experience.
      Also it is certainly a good topic to further post about, how much need we have of training federal and state workers about autism, so there will be no ,misunderstanding.
      I am working and doing some research about it since. We’ll see how far i can go with it or if it is any good.
      As always I value your comments.


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