What This American Family Went Through at the Border Was Clearly Unconstitutional


Increasing border detentions and a ballooning American watchlisting system are two major drivers of government abuse. A lawsuit the ACLU filed last week challenges both.

We represent Abdisalam Wilwal, Sagal Abdigani, and their four young children — all U.S. citizens whose experience at the border represents much of what’s wrong with the government’s approach to border security.

The family lives in the Minneapolis area and was returning from a trip to visit relatives in Saskatchewan, Canada, on March 30, 2015. After they pulled their minivan up to the border checkpoint at Portal, North Dakota, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers appeared with their guns drawn and pointed at the van, yelling at Abdisalam to come out with his hands in the air. They handcuffed him in front of his family as his children screamed and cried from fear.

The officers held Abdisalam for almost 11 hours, which he spent handcuffed alone in a room in the border station. At one point during the detention, having been denied food or water for hours, he passed out and required medical attention.

The officers detained Sagal and the four children elsewhere in the border station. They denied her requests to use the phone or have someone pick up the children, saying, “You’re all the same. You’re all detainees, including the children.” At one point hours into the detention, Sagal — extremely anxious about her family’s safety — used her son’s phone to call 911 and report what was happening. A CBP officer grabbed the phone and spoke to the dispatcher. Help never arrived.

Two officers then took Sagal’s son, who was 14 years old at the time, into a separate room and patted him down. They told him to remove his clothes for a strip search, which he refused to do.

About nine hours into the detention, two Homeland Security Investigations agents arrived at the border station. They questioned Abdisalam for about 45 minutes about his religious practices, travel, family, and job. They then told him he was free to go. The whole family left immediately.

Abdisalam later learned that he and his family were detained because he is on the government’s terrorism watchlist. He doesn’t know why he’s been watchlisted, and the government won’t tell him.

Read the entire article at https://www.aclu.org/blog/speak-freely/what-american-family-went-through-border-was-clearly-unconstitutional