NY: Court Weighs Border Stops of U.S. Muslims


NY: COURT WEIGHS BORDER STOPS OF U.S. MUSLIMS WHO ATTENDED CONFERENCE IN CANADA

A federal appeals court in Manhattan is considering whether authorities went too far in instructing border agents to detain and search American Muslims returning from an Islamic religious conference in Toronto.

In late 2004, U.S. law enforcement agents became concerned that supporters of terror groups might try to attend several Islamic religious conferences, including the "Reviving Islamic Spirit" conference that drew 13,000 people to Toronto's SkyDome. So, as a precautionary measure, they instituted an unusual dragnet, instructing border agents to detain and search anyone entering the United States after attending one of these conferences abroad.

At a border crossing in Lewiston, N.Y., some law-abiding citizens trying to return home from Toronto were held for up to 6 1/2 hours while they were fingerprinted, photographed, searched and questioned by agents who never explained why they had been detained.

The New York Civil Liberties Union argued during a court hearing Thursday that the government acted unconstitutionally when it singled out such a large group of Muslims for aggressive inspection.

The government has not said how many people were searched trying to re-enter the United States, but five of the Americans stopped in Lewiston sued, saying the government had infringed on their religious liberties and right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

 


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