A prominent French historian has said he was detained for more than 10 hours in Houston and threatened with deportation, in the latest of several examples of high-profile individuals being questioned extensively at U.S. airports before being allowed entry.
Henry Rousso flew from Paris to Houston last Wednesday to take part in a symposium at Texas A&M University, but was wrongly detained and almost sent back to France by an inexperienced border guard who didn't understand the rules that governed Rousso’s visa.
While he was held, Rousso contacted university officials who attempted to secure his release. “He was waiting for customs officials to send him back to Paris as an illegal alien on the first flight out,” according to Richard Golsan, a professor at Texas A&M.
Following scorn poured on Donald Trump by the French president and the mayor of Paris after the US president suggested in a speech last week that Paris is unsafe for American tourists, the incident has sparked fresh outrage in France.
Last week it was reported that border agents in Florida detained the U.S. citizen son of the boxer Muhammad Ali and asked if he was a Muslim, while the celebrated Australian children’s author Mem Fox said she “collapsed and sobbed like a baby” after being held at Los Angeles international airport for two hours, insulted and questioned about her visa status.
Rousso credited the intervention of the university officials with securing his release and said he did not know why he was singled out for special scrutiny, but doubted it was by chance. "I cannot . . . stop myself from thinking of all those who have to suffer these humiliations and this legal attack without the protections which I was able to benefit from,” Rousso said. “It is now necessary to face up to the total arbitrariness and incompetence [in the U.S.].”