Customs before Oscars
Emad Burnat with his five broken cameras. Burnat and Guy Davidi co-directed the Oscar-nominated documentary 5 Broken Cameras.
Oscar-nominated Palestinian director Emad Burnat has complained that US customs briefly held him as he arrived for the awards, but said his people endure similar problems every day.
Burnat, whose Five Broken Cameras is shortlisted for best documentary at the 85th Academy Awards on Sunday, said being detained for an hour on Wednesday at Los Angeles's LAX airport with his wife and eight-year-old son was "unpleasant".
"Last night, on my way from Turkey to Los Angeles ... my family and I were held at US immigration for about an hour and questioned about the purpose of my visit to the United States," he said in a statement.
Oscar-nominated Palestinian director Emad Burnat. Photo: Getty
Immigration officials wanted proof that he was nominated for an Academy Award "and they told me that if I couldn't prove the reason for my visit, my wife Soraya, my son Gibreel and I would be sent back to Turkey on the same day.
"After 40 minutes of questions and answers, Gibreel asked me why we were still waiting in that small room. I simply told him the truth: 'Maybe we'll have to go back.' I could see his heart sink."
But he added: "Although this was an unpleasant experience, this is a daily occurrence for Palestinians, every single day, throughout the West Bank.
"There are more than 500 Israeli checkpoints, roadblocks, and other barriers to movement across our land, and not a single one of us has been spared the experience that my family and I experienced yesterday.
"Ours was a very minor example of what my people face every day."
A US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency spokesman said he could not discuss individual cases due to privacy laws.
But in a statement the agency said the "CBP strives to treat all travellers with respect and in a professional manner, while maintaining the focus of our mission to protect all citizens and visitors in the United States.
"Travellers may be referred for further inspection for a variety of reasons to include identity verification, intent of travel, and confirmation of admissibility."
Burnat's brief detention was first reported by activist filmmaker Michael Moore, who alerted Oscars organisers the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and tweeted about it.
"Although he produced the Oscar invite nominees receive, that wasn't good enough & he was threatened with being sent back to Palestine," Moore said.
"Apparently the Immigration and Customs officers couldn't understand how a Palestinian could be an Oscar nominee. Emad texted me for help," added Moore, who won the best documentary Oscar in 2003 for Bowling for Columbine.
Moore, a well-known activist for a variety of causes, added that the Palestinian filmmaker "was certain they were going to deport him. But not if I had anything to do about it."