Apr. 21, 2005 – Five Muslim-Americans filed a suit Wednesday against US Homeland Security and Customs officials, claiming their constitutional rights were violated when they tried to return home from an Islamic conference in Toronto last December.
The five plaintiffs, all citizens of New York, claimed that federal agents at the Buffalo border crossing singled them out with at least 30 other Muslims, then interrogated, fingerprinted, searched, photographed and held them for up to 6 1/2 hours after learning that they had attended the event. When members of the group tried to contact family members, the media or their attorneys, agents confiscated their cell phones, the suit alleges.
In the suit, filed in federal district court by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), the group accuses the Department of Homeland Security, along with Customs and Border Protection, of discriminating against them in violation of their rights to freedom of speech, religion and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.
The plaintiffs are not asking for monetary compensation, but want an acknowledgment that their rights under the First and Fourth Amendments and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act were violated, along with assurances that Muslim-Americans returning from outside religious conferences will not be treated as they were. They also demand the return or destruction of all records, photographs and fingerprints gathered by federal officials.