Civil Rights

Civil Rights

CAIR-Arizona provides free legal services for Arizonans who have experienced discrimination because of their religion (or perception of religion).

Most CAIR civil rights cases are resolved outside of court. However, CAIR is currently issuing broader legal challenges to a variety of policies and practices affecting the Muslim community. These include:

In the beginning of 2011, Yasir Afifi, a 20-year-old Muslim student from Santa Clara, California took his car to a mechanic for an oil change. While changing the oil, the mechanic found an unusual device attached to the underside of the vehicle and pointed it out to Yasir.

Because they could not identify the device, one of Yasir’s friends posted pictures of it online asking if anyone knew what it was. Not long afterward, FBI agents showed up at Yasir’s door saying the object was a GPS tracking device, that it belonged to the bureau, and that they wanted it back.

Yasir turned to CAIR’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter (CAIR-SFBA) to protect his rights. After communicating with the FBI agents, CAIR-SFBA’s executive director and attorney, Zahra Billoo, learned that the GPS device had been planted by the FBI without a warrant.

On March 2, 2011, CAIR filed a lawsuit on Yasir Afifi’s behalf in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia stating that the FBI violated Afifi’s First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights when the bureau failed to obtain a warrant to place the GPS tracking device on his car to monitor his daily activities.

The lawsuit, which names Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director Robert Mueller and “unknown FBI agents” as defendants, seeks an order preventing another tracking device from being attached to his vehicle without a search warrant. The requested order would also bar the FBI from using tracking devices without first obtaining a search warrant.

In September 2011, CAIR submitted an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief to the U.S. Supreme Court when it was hearing another case of authorities using GPS devices to track a person without a warrant. (An amicus brief is submitted by someone who is not part of a case being heard but who has relevant experience or arguments to add). We believe this was the first time a Muslim organization submitted a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court.

CAIR’s brief argues that “warrantless prolonged GPS surveillance disproportionately harms American Muslims and curtails their First Amendment rights” and that “law enforcement has conducted indiscriminate surveillance of innocent American Muslims for the last decade.”

We anticipate a ruling by the Supreme Court between April and July 2012. How the court rules on this case will set a precedent for all future cases of warrantless tracking and monitoring.

CAIR filed a Supreme Court amicus brief in United States v. Jones in support of the requirement that law enforcement obtain a warrant before placing a GPS tracking device on any individual’s car. In Jones, police officers attached a GPS tracking device to Jones’s car and tracked his movements 24 hours a day for four weeks without a warrant.

In its brief, CAIR asked the Supreme Court to uphold the D.C. Circuit Court’s decision that “prolonged warrantless use of a GPS tracking device violates the Fourth Amendment.” CAIR’s interest in the case stems from a lawsuit it is litigating on behalf of an American Muslim who was subjected to prolong warrantless GPS tracking by the FBI.

Read the amicus brief here.

Over the past two years, CAIR has handled a number of cases of American Muslim citizens being denied re-entry to their own country.

In the first days of 2011, the family of a young Muslim man from Virginia called CAIR because they were worried that their brother and son, 19-year-old Gulet Mohamed, was detained in Kuwait and being questioned there by the FBI.

On January 6, CAIR held a press conference with members of Gulet’s family to bring public scrutiny to the case and to appeal for his return.

American officials confirmed that Gulet had been placed on a no-fly list and therefore could not return to the United States. Gulet said he was tortured while in detention and faced coercion to answer questions by FBI agents who ignored his repeated requests for legal representation.

On January 18, CAIR filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice and the FBI seeking a court order that would allow Gulet to return to the United States.

The lawsuit stated in part: “The United States is depriving Mr. Mohamed of perhaps the most basic prerogative of American citizenship: the right to be in the United States. This is patently unconstitutional, and it is up to this Court to bring Gulet Mohamed — an American citizen — back to his country.”

A few days later, Gulet was allowed to return home.