Entire Iraqi-American family arrested after father tried to deposit check in bank

By @chelean on
A man holds a cheque after withdrawing money from an IndyMac Bank branch under federal management at the company's corporate headquarters in Pasadena, California July 14, 2008. Reuters/Danny Moloshok

An entire Iraqi-American family was illegally detained in Kansas, US, last week after the father tried to deposit a large sum in a bank. Sattar Ali said they were victims of racial profiling after the Emprise Bank ordered their arrest for alleged attempted forgery.

Ali, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering, told The Sunflower that he was arrested while trying to deposit a check worth US$151,000 (AU$188,000) at Emprise Bank last week. He said he provided all the necessary documents so the bank could verify the check, which was payment for a home he sold in another state.

Over 15 police cars then showed up and arrested him. They also arrested Ali’s wife, Hadil, and their 15-year-old daughter, Hawra, who were both waiting in their car outside the bank. They allegedly did not tell Ali why they were arresting him until the family was released. They also did not read them their rights.

They were arrested at 11:30 a.m. and held in separate cells until they were released around 3:00 p.m. Ali was only later told that the bank had trouble verifying the check and called the police. However, the Iraqi-born father said he had provided all necessary papers, including information from the company that issued the check. The police apparently also did not take steps to verify the check until they were arrested.

“They jumped to conclusions,” he told the student publication, because the check was presented by “someone named Sattar Ali, not James or Robert.” His family was terrified and “crying the whole time” while they were incarcerated as they had no idea what they were being held for.

Even if arresting someone who handed a false check was standard procedure, Ali still couldn’t reconcile the fact that the police also arrested his family. “Let’s assume I made a mistake and gave them a bad check,” he said. “Why would they arrest my wife and daughter? How would they know those people are with me?”

Ali had one answer to that, though. “The only reason I can think of is racial profiling,” he said. “We have some discrimination issues.”

Wichita police explained that officers attempted to verify the check. But when they were unable to do so, Wichita Police Detectives were called “due to their expertise and access to additional resources.”

Emprise Bank was also unapologetic in its statement to Kake. It even said it would expect its entire staff to do the same.

“We are aware of a situation at the 21st and Woodlawn branch yesterday and can confirm that our team acted in accordance with our policies and procedures,” the statement reads. “If faced with the same circumstances today, we would expect our team to take the same actions.”

Ali, who came from Iraq to the US in 1993, lived in Wichita from 1999 to 2008 and has relocated his family back to Wichita in August. He said he plans to take legal action.