This man's encounter with border patrol should have us all brushing up on our legal rights.

A comedian traveling by bus in Washington state shared his not-so-funny, Gestapo-esque encounter with U.S. border patrol agents.

Mohanad Elshieky is a stand-up comedian originally from Benghazi, Libya (yes, that Benghazi) but is living in Portland Oregon. Elshieky told  Willamette Week that he was officially granted political asylum in the U.S. in October 2018, which makes him a legal resident of the United States.

However, that status appeared to not matter to the immigration officials who allegedly boarded the bus Elshieky was on this weekend.


"This morning," Elshieky wrote on Twitter, "ICE agents got on my Greyhound bus that was headed from Spokane to Portland. They walked around before they asked me and few others to step outside and took my documents and interrogated me for around 20 mins then claimed my papers were fake and that I’m 'illegal'."

"I explained to them that I was granted Asylum here in the United States," he continued, "and that the work permit they currently hold and the license are impossible to get unless your presence here is legal. They told me that I was lying and these could pretty much be falsified."

Elshieky provided his documentation, but the border patrol agents insisted that he was "illegal."

Elshieky wrote that the agents called immigration to verify his information, and he could hear the person on the phone say that he was in the country legally. But, he said, "The ICE agent ended the call and then said 'there are no records of your Asylum' and I again said that was impossible. Then said I should had my Asylum approval on me which is ridiculous, why would I carry that where I have my IDs."

Elshieky told Willamette Week that his immigration lawyer had told him that carrying his ID and his work permit would be sufficient for proving his legal status if it ever came up. But the agents were unrelenting, insisting that he needed different "papers."

Elshieky said he'd "never felt as terrible" as he did during the experience—which is saying a lot considering he's an asylee.

This is a man who has been granted asylum, meaning that the U.S. government has determined that it is unsafe for him to be sent back to his home country. And yet, that same government is now allegedly using classic anti-immigrant intimidation tactics to harass him and make him feel unwelcome in his adopted country.

"To be honest, I have never felt as terrible as I did today," he wrote. "I have never imagined that I would have to go through this."

"It was an another reminder that even though I have been here for 5 years working my ass off, I was still considered 'Other,' he wrote, "and I have never felt as alone as I did in that station full of people."

Elshieky shared a photo of the agents and discovered that what he originally thought was ICE were likely Customs and Border Patrol agents. The main difference between ICE and CBP is that CBP patrols border areas, whereas ICE operates in all areas of the United States. Spokane, WA is about 120 miles from the Canadian border. (Just outside the standard 100-miles from a border boundary, which is CBP's jurisdiction.)

Stories like this should have us all brushing up on our legal rights—and questioning what we're willing to give up for "security."

If this story is true, it paints a terrifying picture of a government agency with enormous power over the lives of individuals using racial discrimination and intimidation tactics to harass people. Any one of us could be accused of being here illegally, and if we don't have the proper "papers" could be subject to all manner of injustices.

The ACLU has provided an infographic detailing your rights if you are stopped by a border patrol agent. At the very least, Elshieky's story is reminder for us to brush up on those legal protections, both for our own sake and for the people around us.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.