A prominent French historian and Holocaust expert set to speak at a Texas A&M University conference was detained at Houston's airport and nearly deported in the latest snafu involving US immigration agents. Henry Rousso's Kafkaesque tale unfolded Wednesday after he landed in Houston on a flight from Paris and was taken into custody for 10 hours, he confirms via Twitter. The "inexperienced" agent who questioned him seemed confused by his visa status, a fact confirmed by the lawyers who later saved him from being sent home "as an illegal alien on the first flight out," a Texas A&M professor tells the College Station Eagle. While Customs and Border Protection officials have stayed mum, a $2,000 honorarium due to Rousso appears to have been a source of confusion, the New York Times reports.
While such payments are common, a border agent questioned whether the Egyptian-born French citizen had a working visa to enter the US. Texas A&M officials in a "panic" scrambled a legal team that managed to spring the scholar. The Washington Post reports reaction was swift and angry in France, still smarting from President Trump's comment that "Paris is no longer Paris." Angry tweets included one from popular presidential hopeful Emmanuel Macron, who fumed "there is no excuse." Rousso tells the Times he is "nervous" to return to the US. "The United States is no longer quite the United States," he writes on the Huffington Post's French site, via the Guardian. Immigration lawyer Jason Mills, who worked to get Rousso released, tells the Times that border agents are now "looking really hard for reasons to deny, instead of reasons to admit." (Trump's immigration plan could cost billions.)