GRAND FORKS, N.D. - A Minneapolis-area family is suing multiple high-ranking U.S. officials for civil rights violations after what they describe as an abusive detention in early 2015 at the Canada border.
Abdisalam Wilwal, who was allegedly held for more than 10 hours with his wife and four children at the Portal, N.D., station of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, was detained because of his placement on a terrorist watch list used by agencies of the federal government. A lawsuit filed Thursday, July 13, on the Wilwal family's behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union and private litigation firm Robin Kaplan LLP, states Wilwal does not know why he is on such a list and does not believe there is cause.
Wilwal and his wife, Sagal Abdigani, are originally from Somalia and immigrated to the U.S. in 2000. They both were U.S. citizens by the time they were crossing the border to reenter the country from Canada, where they said they had been visiting Abdigani's sister in Saskatchewan.
The complaint filed by the ACLU and Robin Kaplan asserts the detention at the border violated the Wilwal family's protection under the Administrative Procedure Act, as well as constitutional rights-namely their Fourth Amendment right to be be free from unreasonable search and seizure as well as due process rights contained in the Fifth Amendment. The lawsuit names as defendants a host of high-ranking U.S. officials, including U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security head John Kelly and FBI chief Andrew McCabe.
The complaint seeks a declaration from the court that the defendants violated the Wilwal family's rights. It also seeks an injunction preventing the defendants from "arresting, seizing, searching, or interrogating (Wilwal) because of his placement on a terrorism-related watch list," as well as subjecting Wilwal's family to similar treatment due to their association with him.
The lawsuit also asks the court to require the defendants to provide Wilwal with the rationale leading to his placement on a watch list and allow him an opportunity to contest that listing and be removed from it. Finally, the injunction asks the court to require the defendants to destroy information illegally gathered on the family.
Hugh Handeyside, an ACLU attorney listed on the complaint, described the watch list system in a press release as a "due process disaster" that accuses people while providing them with no legal recourse to deny claims of terrorist activity.
Wilwal also spoke against the system in the release.
"I came to this country seeking safety and freedom, and I'm proud to be an American," he said. "But our own government just shouldn't be treating my family and me or anyone else this way. It's wrong."