Department of Homeland Security

ACLU sues DHS, says Muslim Americans questioned about faith at border


Three U.S. citizens filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday in the United States District Court for the Central District of California alleging they have been subjected to “unconstitutional questioning” from border officials about their religion. 

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Minnesota and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of three Muslim Americans who say they have been asked “inappropriate religious questions,” including “whether they are Muslim, whether they attend a mosque, which mosque they attend, whether they are Sunni or Shi’a, and how often they pray.”

They say the questions have been asked on multiple occasions when the plaintiffs came home from traveling abroad.

“By targeting plaintiffs for religious questioning merely because they are Muslim…border officers stigmatize them for adhering to a particular faith and condemn their religion as subject to suspicion and distrust,” the lawsuit said.

The suit details the treatment of the plaintiffs Abdirahman Aden Kariye, Mohamad Mouslli and Hameem Shah at various ports of entry into the U.S. and details the questioning they faced from border officials.

The ACLU said in a press release Thursday that the questioning by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) violates the plaintiff’s First Amendment freedoms of religion and association, as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

It added that this questioning is “part of a broader 20-year practice of border officials targeting Muslim American travelers because of their religion.”

The plaintiffs are asking the court to declare that the CBP’s religious questioning violates the Constitution and RFRA.

The lawsuit also seeks an injunction that will stop the Department of Homeland Security and CBP from questioning the plaintiffs about their faith at ports of entry, and demands that recordings of the questioning be expunged.

The Hill has reached out to the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for comment.

The ACLU has previously said that U.S. citizens and lawful residents who are Muslim have been targeted by CBP officers for questioning about “deeply personal beliefs, associations and religious practices protected by the First Amendment.” 

Numerous Muslim travelers have complained of being questioned while traveling in the decades since September 11. 

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties opened an internal investigation in 2011 to look into several complaints it had received from U.S. citizens and permanent residents who said they had been questioned about their Muslim faith and practices.

The report added that the investigation was later closed without a conclusion when the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a related lawsuit.


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