An engineering professor at the American University of Beirut says he was wrongfully denied entry into the U.S. because of new “extreme vetting” measures.
George Saad, 35, an associate professor at the Beirut campus, was traveling to the U.S. for the Engineering Mechanics Institute Conference in San Diego.
He says the Department of Homeland Security turned him away at Los Angeles International Airport without explanation, and he missed his conference as a result.
According to The New York Post, Homeland Security officials detained him and interrogated him for four hours. He says his phone was confiscated, his laptop was seized and officials photographed him and took fingerprints.
“I belong to the American University of Beirut — the leading academic institution in Lebanon and the Middle East, chartered in New York and considered an American territory in Lebanon,” Saad told The Post. “I felt so small, so unappreciated and consider being treated in demeaning and humiliating ways.”
Saad says his visa was revoked and he was sent back to Beirut without an opportunity to contact an attorney or his family.
According to The Post, Saad has traveled to the U.S. about 15 times without any issue. In 2015 and 2015, he attended similar engineering conferences in California.
Saad graduated from John Hopkins University, and holds his doctorate from the University of Southern California. He says his family is Christian, and he has no criminal record.
The alleged incident happened amid President Trump’s push to enhance screening measures at American points of entry. Although the courts have blocked the president’s travel ban, his administration has been pushing for stepped up questioning of visa applicants and more intense vetting.
Saad says he already filed a complaint with Homeland Security’s Traveler Redress Inquiry Program, but he still lost about $2,500 in travel costs.
Officials at the American University of Beirut say they stand by their professor.
“While we understand and respect security measures, we are surprised and concerned at the treatment our faculty member received, including his long interrogation followed by denial of his entry into the US,” the university said in a statement to The Post.
Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not respond to requests for comment.