Yassmin Abdel-Magied, an Australian author, mechanical engineer, and Muslim activist, has been deported from Minneapolis to Amsterdam after U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials claimed that she did not have the correct visa. Abdel-Magied was visiting the country in order to speak at the PEN World Voices festival in New York this month.
Abdel-Magied is an outspoken critic of her country's immigration policies. In 2007, then 16, she co-founded Youth Without Borders, a group whose mission is to "empower young people as leaders of positive change and build capacity through collaborative community-based initiatives."
Abdel-Magied took to Twitter to explain her situation, adding that the CBP agents seized her phone and passport.
They’ve taken my phone, cancelled my visa and are deporting me. Will follow up on messages once I understand what’s going on. https://t.co/uT61v8cZXG— Yassmin Abdel-Magied (@yassmin_a) April 11, 2018
She later followed up her string of tweets with a statement.
"On 11 April 2018, I attempted to enter the United States of America. The validity of my visa to enter was challenged and I have now returned to London," she said. "I have previously traveled to the United States on the visa that I sought entry with on this occasion. I am now seeking advice and working to resolve this issue as soon as possible."
In a statement, Customs and Border Patrol said that its officers "determined this individual did not possess the appropriate visa to receive monetary compensation for the speaking engagements she had planned during her visit to the United States." The agency added that Abdel-Magied "is eligible to reapply for a visa for future visits."
Responding to the situation in a statement, PEN America executive director Suzanne Nossel said her organization was "dismayed" at the news and that "Abdel-Magied is an advocate of the rights of Muslim women and refugees and is a citizen of Australia, traveling on that country’s passport." Nossel went on to say that the PEN World Voices Festival was created, in the aftermath of 9/11, to "sustain the connectedness between the U.S. and the wider world," and that this effort is "in jeopardy...when efforts at visa bans and tightened immigration restrictions threaten to choke off vital channels of dialogue."
Nossel then demanded that Abdel-Magied be allowed to enter the country. "We call on Customs and Border Patrol to admit her to the U.S. so that she can take her rightful place in the urgent international conversation to take place at the Festival next week.”