ACLU lawsuit: US border officials repeatedly question Twin Cities imam about religion

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Imam Abdirahman Aden Kariye

Three American Muslims, including an imam from the Twin Cities, say US border agents asked them illegal and invasive questions when they returned to the United States from international travel.

The series of questions included questions about their religion, the mosque they attend, whether they are Sunni or Shia, and how often they pray, what is unconstitutional, according to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Minnesota and the ACLU of California.

Their answers are then stored in a law enforcement database for up to 75 years, according to the lawsuit.

“…Every time I go home to the United States, I get anxious,” said Abdirahman Aden Kariye, imam at Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington. said in an ACLU press release. “I’m constantly worried about how I’m going to be perceived, so much so that I try to avoid drawing attention to my faith. I normally wear a Muslim prayer cap, but I no longer wear it to the airport to avoid being questioned by border officials.

“It’s terrible to feel that you have to hide an essential part of who you are from your own government. I shouldn’t be interrogated because of my religion,” Kariye said.

The lawsuit says this questioning by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) violates their First and Fifth Amendment rights and the Religious Freedom Restoration Actalleging unequal treatment on the basis of religion because CBP and HSI targeted American Muslims in their interrogations.

Kariye, a US citizen, is among three plaintiffs listed in the federal lawsuit. The others are Mohamad Mouslli of Gilbert, Arizona, and Hameem Shah of Plano, Texas.

The lawsuit details five cases, dating from September 2017 to January 1 this year, in which Kariye was questioned about his faith when he returned to the United States after trips abroad. In each case, the lawsuit says Kariye was taken to an area away from other travellers, usually a windowless room, and interrogated at length. Officials took his belongings and searched his electronic devices.

Kariye is on the US government’s watch list but he doesn’t know why, according to the lawsuit. But the apparent placement on that list has caused him to be questioned at a secondary inspection area every time he returns from international travel.

The ACLU says the interrogation Kariye and the other two plaintiffs faced “is part of a broader 20-year practice by border officials targeting Muslim American travelers because of their religion.”

“This invasive interrogation serves no legitimate law enforcement purpose and sends the harmful and stigmatizing message that the U.S. government views Muslims as inherently suspect,” said Ashley Gorski, senior counsel for the ACLU’s National Security Project. , in a press release.

The lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court to declare that this interrogation violates the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. He also seeks an injunction prohibiting the Department of Homeland Security and CBP from questioning complainants about their faith at ports of entry, and the removal of documents reflecting information border officials have obtained through this type of investigation. examination.

The lawsuit names Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security; Mark Morgan, Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection; Tae D. Johnson, Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; and Steve K. Francis, Acting Associate Executive Director of Homeland Security Investigations as defendants.

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