The ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee has called for an investigation into claims by American Muslims that they are being harassed by U.S. customs and border officials while trying to cross back into the country from Canada.
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) asked the Justice Department (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to investigate allegations made by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) that American-Muslims are being handcuffed, interrogated and sexually harassed for hours by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents along the northern border.
“With federal hearings on radicalization and intense scrutiny by law enforcement of religious institutions, the American-Islamic community today is living in a climate that has the risk of producing a siege mentality,” said Conyers in a statement.
“The American-Islamic community should know that the federal government will protect the interests of the community, while maintaining the appropriate focus on national security.”
Conyers' call for the investigation come as the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights prepares to hold a hearing next week on “Protecting the civil rights of American Muslims,” in which the panel will hear from DOJ’s assistant attorney general for its civil rights division.
Less than three weeks ago Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, held a highly controversial hearing on the radicalization of the Muslim-American community. Scores of Democrats adamantly opposed the hearing and said that it would further strain ties between Muslim Americans and the government and law enforcement.
Some criticized King for not inviting CAIR to testify at the hearing. King has long held CAIR to be an accessory to terrorist activities, pointing to the government naming it – among more than 200 other groups – as an unindicted co-conspirator in its case against the Holy Land Foundation providing support to Hamas. The FBI has discontinued its official contact with CAIR.
But Conyers said CAIR’s allegations regarding the mistreatment of American-Muslims at the border deserves the government’s full attention and could be further evidence of law enforcement officials racially and religiously profiling a group of people that would not fall under suspicion otherwise.
In a letter to DHS officials, CAIR said, “The men are thrown against their vehicles, handcuffed, and taken inside for questioning. An invasive and humiliating body search is performed, which many have described as sexual harassment. Some are left handcuffed for hours on end, in many cases standing upright. Others are left in a cell. At least a dozen Muslim women of Somali origin have also reported being subjected to invasive and humiliating searches at the border that they felt were inappropriate and a form of sexual harassment.”
Conyers said he was planning to try to work with Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith (Texas).