An Iranian chemical engineer returning on a cruise from Mexico to Port Everglades said Sunday morning that he was detained by U.S. Customs officials.
Maysam Sodagari, a passenger on an annual gay cruise, gave a running Facebook account of his detention, including two Facebook Live videos.
"In one night my status changed, from a legal person to a kind of illegal," he told reporters at the port.
About three hours after his first post, he was outside Terminal 18 with his bags. Sodagari posted a minute later: “I am free to go back home.”
After Sodagari returned, he said he was nervous during his detention but was treated well.
“They were very friendly, very professional,” he said. “They explained all the processes, and why they’re doing this. And I understand. It’s their job.”
Others across the country also ran into travel troubles after an executive order by President Donald Trump cracked down on immigration.
ProPublica told the story of Saudi Arabian born-and-raised doctor Cleveland Clinic doctor Suha Abushamma, who has a work visa. Abushamma’s passport comes from the Sudan. When she tried to return from visiting family in Saudi Arabia, she was detained in New York, then sent back to Saudi Arabia less than an hour before a New York federal judge signed a temporary stay on such send-backs.
Among other restrictions, the immigration executive order that Trump signed Friday put a 90-day hold on U.S. entrance for citizens of predominantly Muslim countries Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It originally also barred green card holders from those countries from reentering the United States.
Sodagari, whose LinkedIn page says he has worked for two U.S. companies since getting his doctorate from the University of Akron, began posting Saturday about his fears. Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas docked early Sunday after a sold-out seven-day cruise that hit stops in Mexico and Labadee, Haiti.
Sodagari lives and works in San Francisco, according to his social media accounts, and friends say he has a green card.
Meanwhile, according to The New York Times, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said those from countries in Trump’s executive order on immigration who held green cards could return to the United States. But, Priebus also said, border agents had “discretionary authority” to detain and question suspicious travelers from certain countries.
Passengers getting off the cruise from 7 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. Sunday at Port Everglades told the Miami Herald they saw no one detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Mark Anthony of Miami Beach said the process actually moved more swiftly than when he took the same cruise a year ago.
One of Anthony’s travel partners, Tim Kupinski of Buffalo, and other passengers said announcements had been made the previous night that there would be help for those who needed it at Customs, but it shouldn’t be necessary.
Knowing Sodagari’s situation, a couple of friends tweeted at members of Congress on Saturday, while the ship was still at sea. Sodagari himself was concerned about being sent back to Iran, where the government can punish gay people with whippings or death.
Beginning at 9:30 a.m., Sodagari posted that he was being held up, then being taken to Customs and Border Protection’s office. He also posted two Facebook Live videos as Customs halted his re-entry. Friends and supporters posted advice, possible attorney contacts and news updates regarding the immigration executive order.
Late Sunday afternoon, OUT Miami Foundation Executive Director Jamie Alejandro posted a picture with Sodagari and another friend from Wilton Manors.
“I am happy to report that I'm here with Maysam and after being detained by CBP for three hours he is doing well and is in good spirits — obviously concerned and shaken up but doing well.”