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French scholar set to speak at HIAS detained by customs officials at Houston airport

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Henry Rousso

Henry Rousso, a Paris-based researcher, spoke at Texas A&M's Hagler Institute for Advance Study symposium on Friday.

A visiting scholar to Texas A&M was detained by customs officials in Houston this week while on his way to speak at a symposium in Aggieland, officials said Friday at the conference.

Henry Rousso was flying in from Paris to participate in the Hagler Institute Symposium when he was "mistakenly detained" Wednesday evening upon his arrival because of a misunderstanding regarding the parameters of his visa, according to Richard Golsan, director of the Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research at Texas A&M.

"When he called me with this news two nights ago, he was waiting for customs officials to send him back to Paris as an illegal alien on the first flight out," said Golsan during his introduction to the session that Rousso was set to participate in.

After learning about the situation, Golsan said he immediately called university officials, leading A&M President Michael K. Young to enlist the help of Texas A&M Law School professor and director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic Fatma Marouf.

Using a network of connections, Marouf said they were able to get in contact with customs and border protection agents onsite in Houston to get the situation resolved. 

"Due to her prompt and timely intervention, Rousso was released," Golsan said.

Marouf said the decision by custom and border protections agents at the airport to detain and deport Rousso on the next available flight was an "extreme response" considering her understanding of the situation. 

"In the past, I had not seen anything like that happening," Marouf said. "It seems like there's much more rigidity and rigor in enforcing these immigration requirements and the technicalities of every visa."

Earlier this month, Marouf drafted an amicus brief on behalf of more than 200 law professors and clinicians that was filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as it weighed its decision on President Donald Trump's travel ban executive orders.

Rousso, 62, is a senior researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research, or CNRS, which the Egyptian-born scholar and author joined in 1981.

His work centers on the history and memory of traumatic pasts, France in World War II and the post-war period, his profile on the CNRS website says. Rousso's current study involves the relationship between history, memory and justice.

Rousso has been a research associate and visiting professor at many U.S. institutions, including Harvard University, Dartmouth College and the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

He's spoken at Texas A&M University many times about France's Vichy regime and the country's role in the Holocaust. In 2007, he was a visiting professor at A&M, his profile says.

Rousso was in attendance at the symposium Friday, where he gave a lecture titled Writing on the Dark Side of the Recent Past, which looked at the way in which historians must re-evaluate their approach to writing history in a time when opinions are so heavily weighted.

Attempts to reach immigration officials in Houston were not successful Friday.

Amanda Brandt contributed to this report.

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