An Arab American family faced arrest and detention by U.S. police after the father tried to deposit a large check in a Kansas bank.
Sattar Ali and his family recently moved back to Wichita, Kansas after living for several years in Dearborn, Michigan, according to local ABC affiliate KAKE. Ali is completing a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Wichita State University, where his 18-year-old son is also studying.
The Iraqi-American family had sold their home in Michigan and was attempting to deposit the check of $151,000 at a local bank. Ali brought with him all the necessary verification papers and wasn't asking for any money - just to deposit the funds.
A few minutes later, he was in handcuffs in the back of a police car with his wife Hadil and 15-year-old daughter Hawra.
Why was Ali's family arrested?
"No one told me why I was being arrested until we were being released," Ali told his university's Student newspaper. "They didn’t read me rights or anything."
"They jumped to conclusions," he explained, because the check was "presented by someone named Sattar Ali, not James or Robert."
Ali also voiced his concern over the fact that his wife and daughter were arrested. They had been waiting in the car outside the bank for him, and yet police arrested them as well.
"How would they know those people are with me?" Ali asked. "Let’s assume I made a mistake and gave them a bad check,” he said. “Why would they arrest my wife and daughter?"
Police held the family from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. after the check was found – surprise, surprise – to be legitimate. During the ordeal, the police called the private school where Ali's 11-year-old son studies, telling the school to hold the child while his family remained in custody.
"We were devastated. Terrified. Crying the whole time," Ali said. "We had no idea what the arrest was for."
Ali never previously felt unwelcome in Wichita
Ali was also shocked by the incident because he had previously lived in Wichita and never felt unwelcome. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1993 and lived in the Kansas city from 1998 to 2008 where he worked for Cessna Aircraft.
He then moved with his family to Michigan where he got a job with Chevron. They moved back to Kansas toward the end of August, as Ali began his Ph.D. studies.
When asked why he thought this incident happened to him and his family, Ali said the only thing he could think of is "racial profiling."
"I would expect this in the 1950s. Not now," Ali said.
"I don’t want people to feel sad for me. I just want people to be aware that we have an issue," he said. "This shouldn’t be a product of [the] 21st century."
The bank is facing social media backlash
The local police have simply said they were unable to verify the check at the bank, although they were later able to do so. However, it remains unclear why they were called in the first place, and especially why they were called in such a short amount of time.
As for the bank, it doubled-down in defense of its employees saying: "Our team acted in accordance with our policies and procedures. If faced with the same circumstances today, we would expect our team to take the same actions."
The Ali family plans to take legal action in response to the incident.