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Comedian traveling home from gig ordered off bus and detained by Border Patrol agents

Comedian Mohanad Elshieky said on Monday that he was detained by Border Patrol agents while traveling home from a gig. The comedian, who is originally from Libya, was on his way from Spokane, Washington, to Portland, Oregon, where he lives. He said the Greyhound bus he was on stopped and the agents got on.

"They walked around before they asked me and few others to step outside and took my documents and interrogated me for around 20 mins then claimed my papers were fake and that I'm 'illegal,'" Elshieky tweeted on Monday. 

His Twitter thread about the interaction has gone viral, with over 100,000 Twitter users engaging with his posts. 

"I explained to them that I was granted Asylum here in the United States, and that the work permit they currently hold and the license are impossible to get unless your presence here is legal," Elshieky tweeted. "They told me that I was lying and these could pretty much be falsified."

The comedian originally thought the agents worked for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but later learned they worked for Customs and Border Protections. He wrote that the agents called an immigration office to confirm that he was in the U.S. legally. He said he could hear the person on the other line confirm he had entered legally.

"The ICE agent ended the call and then said, 'There are no records of your Asylum,' and I again said that was impossible," Elsheiky wrote. "Then [they] said I should [have] had my Asylum approval on me which is ridiculous, why would I carry that where I have my IDs."

Elsheiky said throughout the interaction he kept it together and told the agents that what they were doing was illegal. He told them that he would call his lawyer and take legal action if his documents were not given back to him.

"Another ICE agent then started yelling at me to take my hands out of my pockets and I did which is stupid because it was snowing and they were wearing gloves and my hands were freezing cold," Elsheiky tweeted. 

"They handed my documents back and said, 'Next time, have your papers on you,' which means nothing because I did and they said they were fake," he wrote. 

"To be honest, I have never felt as terrible as I did today," the comedian tweeted. "I have never imagined that I would have to go through this."

Elsheiky said this experience was another reminder that "even though I have been here for 5 years working my ass off, I was still considered 'Other,' and I have never felt as alone as I did in that station full of people." 

He later tweeted about what he has overcome as a Libyan seeking asylum, who has become a successful comedian in the U.S. "I have survived a revolution and a civil war and lived in Benghazi my whole life and managed to get through that and come here and start a comedy career that has been taking off well," he wrote. "So stop sending me hate mail and racist s**** into my DM because you're not gonna break me fools."

Elsheiky, who was named a "comedian to watch" by Conan O'Brien, often tweets about political issues, particularly those relating to immigration and border security. 

In true comedic fashion, Elsheiky ended the thread with a joke. "The ironic part is that I [thought] that smell on the Greyhound bus was gonna be the worst part of the trip," he joked, adding: "Also, f*** you @GreyhoundBus. You could have easily not let those agents on the bus but you're just as s***ty as you smell."

The comedian shared photos of the agents, which appears to have been taken from the bus window. Several Twitter users said they looked like Customs and Border Protection agents, and Elsheiky later tweeted a correction saying he did not know the difference between their uniforms and the ones ICE agents wear.

He also shared screenshots of his ticket to verify he was on the bus.

"There was snow on the floor and it was freezing cold in Spokane. Feel free to ask me anything," he ended the thread. 

The comedian received thousands of replies on his tweets, with some people tagging lawmakers, hoping to get their attention on the issue. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined the thousands of people who retweeted Elshieky, writing: "One of these days, I hope people realize that the idea that ICE should be scrapped isn't so crazy after all. ICE jails children in for-profit detention centers funded by private equity grps. Kids are dying w/ 0 accountability. If that's not totally broken, I don't know what is."

Elshieky continued to tweet about the incident throughout Monday, and shared an article from a local Portland newspaper, Willamette Week. "For anyone who claimed that my story was made up, here is an official response from CBP confirming the incident," he wrote. "They also now say that my Asylum status was valid even though at the time they said there was no record of it on their system."

"Agents from the U.S. Border Patrol's Spokane Station encountered an individual on Sunday at the Spokane Intermodal Bus Station who was not in possession of the immigration documents required by law," a CBP spokesperson told CBS News via email.

"While performing transportation checks, agents made contact with Mohanad Elshieky.  Mr. Elshieky stated he was from Libya and presented the agents with an Oregon driver's license and an Employment Authorization Card (EAD)," the statement read. "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."

CBS News has reached out to Mr. Elshieky and is awaiting response. 

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