LOS ANGELES,CA, ( 02/26/19) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations yesterday announced it has filed complaints with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regarding the unlawful detention of the organization’s executive director, Hussam Ayloush, and his family at the U.S.-Mexico border in Laredo, Texas, in December.
Ayloush and his family, including his wife, three of their children, ages 10, 12 and 16, his mother-in-law and sister-in-law, were detained by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents for almost five hours on Dec. 29, 2018. Ayloush and his family were attempting to return to the U.S. after visiting relatives in Mexico.
According to the complaints, the decision to detain the party was made after a CBP agent inappropriately and illegally questioned the Ayloush family about previous travels in the Middle East and their family in that region.
Civil Rights Attorney Patricia Shnell said the incident was motivated by the agents’ bigotry toward Muslims.
“CAIR receives a high volume of complaints from American Muslim citizens who have been detained and harassed at the border,” Shnell said. “These individuals are targeted, denied entry to their country and subjected to inappropriate, illegal questioning because of their faith. The fact that this happened to Mr. Ayloush, a prominent Muslim civil rights leader, and his family confirms how widespread and rampant this type of discrimination is. Mr. Ayloush and CAIR are using the legal process to achieve systemic change to end religious discrimination of Muslims at our borders.”
After being detained for more than an hour without an explanation, Ayloush requested to speak with a supervisor. According to the complaints, rather than complying with his request, CBP agents separated Ayloush from his family and aggressively handcuffed him to a chair where he was forced to wait for nearly three hours before a supervisor was produced.
After nearly an hour of being questioned by the CBP supervisory agents, Ayloush and his family were finally released at 1 a.m. They were never given a valid explanation for their detention. On the contrary, one of the supervisors agreed that the detention had probably involved targeting, noting that the other agents were likely concerned because the family was Arab and Muslim.
“The detention and the entire episode were traumatic, particularly since my kids were forced to witness me being led away in handcuffs and to endure the agents’ disgusting and rogue behavior,” said Ayloush, whose family resides in Corona, Calif. “It is extremely disturbing that American citizens are treated as second-class citizens at ports of entry based on their ethnicity or religion. No one should be treated so poorly.”
In 2017, CAIR announced the filing of complaints with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) over reports of systematic questioning of American-Muslim citizens by CBP about their religious and political views.