WARNING: Some of the content included in this story involves explicit language.
A comedian from Portland received national attention Sunday after border patrol agents at the Spokane Greyhound bus station stopped him, asked for his papers and said they were fake when he presented his documents.
Mohanad Elshieky, who says he has been granted asylum in the U.S. and has a legal work permit, tweeted that ICE agents took his documents and interrogated him for some time while he was waiting to depart on a bus to Portland in Spokane.
Elshieky later corrected the tweet and said the agents were with border patrol. He said in a tweet the agents asked him to get off the bus.
He had just finished performing a comedy routine at Washington State University in Pullman the night before.
According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson, Elshieky was asked for his documents once he said he was from Libya and the two documents he showed -- his work permit and Oregon driver's license -- were not considered legal for verifying his asylum seeker status.
"As with anyone who needs to have their immigration status verified, Mr. Elshieky was asked to exit the bus. After the approximately 20 minutes needed to verify his status, Mr. Elshieky was allowed to board the bus and continue his travels without delay," the spokesperson said.
If Elshieky would have been carrying an I-94 form, which is paperwork showing that a person is in the asylum process, the situation could have been over quicker, according to the spokesperson.
Elshieky posted his account to Twitter on Sunday afternoon. His tweets said that agents took his documents, interrogated him, claimed the documents were fake and said that he was 'illegal.'
Elshieky said the agents called immigration and after asking about his first and last name, Elshieky said he heard the person on the other end say he was in the system and he had entered the country legally.
Elshieky said the agents then ended the call and told him there was no record of him. After Elshieky threatened to take legal action against the agents, they said they would let him go and that he should carry papers on him next time, according to Elshieky's tweets.
Spokane Councilwoman Kate Burke tweeted a response to Elshieky's thread. In the tweet, she laid much of the blame on Mayor David Condon's shoulders.
"We on City Council passed an ordinance to prevent this kind of harassment. Our mayor, David Condon, has failed to execute that law," Burke said.
The Spokane City Council passed an ordinance in October that bars border patrol agents from entering city buses and asking for paperwork, but the ordinance does not carry much legal weight.
The ordinance says that non-public city-owned or operated property and resources cannot be used for immigration enforcement, unless agents obtain a warrant or permission from Spokane Mayor David Condon. That property includes the Spokane Intermodal Center.
Border patrol officials said the ordinance doesn't impact their practice of searching buses in Spokane. Condon also said he he can't send city officers to stop immigration officers, and Police Chief Craig Meidl said he doesn't want his officers to face charges for interfering in bus searches.
On Monday, two city councilors spoke out against the latest bus search.
Councilman Breean Beggs, who previously served as the Executive Director of the Center for Justice, told KREM 2 that much of what occurred between Elshieky and the agents was illegal.
Councilwoman Kate Burke said the city's ordinance was supposed to stop this kind of incident from happening.
Border Patrol Officer Bill Kingsford responded to the tweets with a statement:
"We will look into this matter and be able to comment at a later time. However it is important to remember that as per 8 USC 1304(e), all immigrants 18 years of age and over are required by law to carry documents showing they are in the country legally," Kingsford wrote.
Elshieky responded to public feedback in a tweet on Monday morning.
"I appreciate everyone's kindness and support. What happened to me doesn't make me want to stay in the U.S any less. I do love being here and I view the United States as my home. Few bad Apples and some negative replies won't change that. Thank you all," he wrote.
The incident drew national attention, including from a popular newly-elected U.S. representative.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, retweeted Elshieky's account, adding that this is an example of why ICE should be abolished.
"One of these days, I hope people realize that the idea that ICE should be scrapped isn't so crazy after all," Ocasio-Cortez said.
Washington Sen. Patty Murray tweeted about the incident on Tuesday, writing "simply living or traveling near the border should not be a sufficient reason to hassle or detain people."