When they came for the comedians, we would not stay silent.
Mohanad Elshieky certainly wouldn’t. Elshieky, named one of Conan’s Comics to Watch in 2018 as well as one of Thrillist’s Best Undiscovered Comedians in America last year, revealed that ICE agents boarded his Greyhound bus this morning in Washington state, and accused him of being an illegal alien.
Elshieky, born and raised in Benghazi, Libya, came to America legally as a refugee granted asylum. He has a valid work permit, which allows him to perform as a professional stand-up comedian here. And his career is on the rise. Not just by the credits I already listed, but by Portland, Ore.’s main newspaper, The Oregonian, profiling him just a month ago with the now-ironic headline: “Mohanad Elshieky is one of Portland’s funniest people — and we may not have him for much longer.”
Here is the comedian’s firsthand account of what happened to him today in the Pacific Northwest:
“This morning, 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, 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. They got on the phone with immigration and gave them my name and document number and I can hear the person on the end of the line saying that yes they can see my name and yes, I entered the country legally. 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.
I kept it together and told them that what they are doing now is illegal and that they must hand me my documents back or I will have to call my lawyer and take legal action. Another ICE agent then started yelling at me to take my hands out of my pockets and I did which is stupid because it was snowing and they were wearing gloves and my hands were freezing cold.
They handed my documents back and said “next time, have your papers on you” which means nothing because I did and they said they were fake.
To be honest, I have never felt as terrible as I did today. 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” and I have never felt as alone as I did in that station full of people. The ironic part is that I though (sic) that smell on the Greyhound bus was gonna be the worst part of the trip. Also, fuck you @GreyhoundBus. You could have easily not let those agents on the bus but you’re just as shitty as you smell.
Just a couple of months ago, Elshieky delivered a TEDx Talk about his immigration story and how he hoped it would not define him, and the power of humor to defuse the tension.
And here he is onstage in a more traditional comedy setting: