updated 7/17/2007 3:17:11 PM ET 2007-07-17T19:17:11

It's unusual for foreigners who come to the United States for a vacation to be refused entry. But Abdel Kader Laaredj is one of them. And his family says they would like to know why.

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Laaredj-Campbell, his wife — who is a U.S. citizens — and their two children flew into Portland from their home in Germany last month.

At the airport, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials separated Abdel Kader Laaredj from his family, questioned him for hours, put him in a jail cell and then sent him back to Germany the next day, the Eugene Register-Guard reported.

"It shook our whole family," said Anne Laaredj-Campbell, who is in Eugene now staying with her parents.

The trouble began the morning of June 13, when the family got off their Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Portland. They were planning to visit Laaredj-Campbell's parents in Eugene, where Laaredj-Campbell grew up.

Laaredj-Campbell, a graduate of the University of Oregon, has U.S. and German citizenship because her mother is a German immigrant.

Her husband, an independent businessman who sells and buys cars and construction supplies, was born in Algeria and later immigrated to Germany where he became a German citizen.

The two fell in love while she was a graduate student at Freiburg University.

They had come to Oregon before, but that was in the summer of 2001 before the terrorist attacks and closer scrutiny of visitors at the nation's ports of entry.

She and the couple's two sons traveled on their U.S. passports. Laaredj traveled on his German passport and a visa waiver, a process that allows people with machine-readable passports to enter the United States without a visa. The visa waiver is used by those traveling for business or recreation who plan to stay less than 90 days. The United States allows people from 27 nations to use visa waivers. All they need to do is bring proof that they have no intention of immigrating.

The couple brought several documents, but they didn't help Laaredj.

When the couple arrived at customs in the Portland airport, he was taken to a room and asked questions about his family in Algeria as well as his marriage, his wife said.

He was handcuffed and taken to a jail where he spent a night in a tiny cell where the light stayed on for the duration and he was not allowed a phone call, she said.

The next day, he was put on a return flight to Germany without being permitted to see his wife.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection are prohibited from talking about individual cases, senior spokesman Bob Anthony said.

Generally, he said, people are deemed inadmissible for a variety of reasons. They may be considered potential terrorists, they may be felons in another country, but with no international warrant, which means they can't be held in the United States. It may be simply that their paperwork is not in order.

Laaredj-Campbell described her husband as a practicing Muslim who goes to prayer services at a mosque in their home in Freiburg. He opposes terrorism and is not involved in political causes, she said. But one of the mosques he attended was raided in the months after Sept. 11.

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