DEARBORN — On Thursday, the Arab American Civil Rights League (ACRL) held a press conference challenging the Department of Homeland Security’s “can’t ask, won’t tell” policy.
The group has filed complaints against the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice and Terrorist Screening Center on behalf of local community members who were placed on the “U.S. No Fly” and “watch” lists.
“You go to the airport you ask why you can’t fly and they won’t tell you,” ACRL Chairman and Attorney Nabih Ayad said.
One of the ACRL’s main concerns is people being placed on the lists without any criminal background or evidence of wrongdoing.
In 2012, the group filed a lawsuit against federal agencies on behalf of a paralyzed elderly man, Jamal Rizk, who was placed on the U.S. No Fly List without having a criminal background. He was removed from the list as a result of the suit.
|Second from the right, local businessman Nasser Beydoun, ACRL Chairman Nabih Ayad, ACRL Field Director Samia Hamid Sareini, Attorney Mona Fadlallah and Attorney Zeina Makki.|
Rizk, a naturalized U.S Citizen, had attempted on several occasions to travel to his native country of Lebanon to receive a specific type of stem cell treatment that is not available in the US in order to help his paralysis. He was never presented with any information on why he was placed on the list.
Nasser Beydoun, a local businessman and board member of the ACRL, discussed some of the experiences he is subjected to as a result of being placed on a government watch list.
“My situation is I am on this watch list. I can’t check in online. I have to show up at the airport and every time I do I am sent to secondary screening, randomly selected of course and then after secondary screening I am also screened at the gate before I board the plane,” Beydoun said.
He says when he travels to Canada he is stopped and detained by Customs Border Patrol for between one to four hours and is searched as all his electronic devices and documents are seized. “Every document I have basically they make a copy of,” he said. “I don’t know why I am on this list. I don’t know why I keep getting stopped.”
“Arab Americans are tired of being treated like second-class citizens. Arab Americans are basically refusing to step aside in reference to the ‘can’t ask, won’t tell’ policy,” said Ayad.
Samia Hamid-Sareini, the interim field director of the ACRL, says the group has established a hotline for individuals who have been impacted by the lists. They can register complaints through the hotline. A class action lawsuit is expected to follow.
The ACRL is calling upon the Judiciary Committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives to take immediate action and schedule hearings.
The group says there is no meaningful opportunity to challenge one’s placement on the lists, and that there is no way to know if one is included or has been removed from the lists, as the government has a long standing “neither confirm nor deny” attitude toward the issue.
According to the ACRL, the only way one can determine if he has been included or removed from the list is to purchase a ticket and attempt to board the plane. The number to the ACRL hotline where individuals can call and make complaints is 844.CANTFLY, or 844.226.8359.
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