CHICAGO , Feb. 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A suburban Chicago father and U.S. Citizen testified today about repeated, lengthy and abusive stops upon his return to the United States after business and family trips. The testimony offered by suburban businessman Akif Rahman was presented to the United Nations' Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The testimony is the latest step by Mr. Rahman to seek a change to U.S. border policies that subject individuals to these unnecessary stops.
Mr. Rahman filed a lawsuit in June 2005 asking the federal government to implement changes to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) and the policies of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to ensure that he no longer was subjected to detentions and harassment by federal officials when re-entering the United States . Since March 2004 , Mr. Rahman was detained and questioned by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials on five separate occasions as he re-entered the country after business or personal trips abroad, detentions lasting unreasonably lengthy times - up to six hours. On one occasion, Mr. Rahman was subjected to unnecessary excessive force during a body search, and painfully shackled to a chair for approximately three hours while isolated from his wife and children.
In testimony prepared for the U.N. Committee hearings, Mr. Rahman says that "It seems to be clear that the U.S. government has created and - to this day - maintains screening policies that unfairly target and profile the Muslim and Arab communities in my country. I look forward to the day when this targeting and discrimination stops."
"All of us want to be safe from terrorism," Rahman adds. "The price of that safety must not, however, be that innocent Americans are repeatedly detained, handcuffed, guarded and questioned for hours when simply trying to re-enter their own country. "
The CERD is hearing this week from the U.S. government, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union and other non-governmental organizations about the state of racial discrimination in the U.S. The meeting is a follow-up to an official American government report, submitted in April 2007 to CERD. In December 2007 , the ACLU released a shadow report on the pervasive institutional, systemic, and structural racism in the United States . The ACLU and other groups' shadow reports, including details about the government's treatment of Mr. Rahman , serve as background for the CERD's questioning of an official U.S. government delegation this week.
Mr. Rahman is representative of thousands of persons, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. Thousands of persons are stopped, questioned, abused and harassed at points of entry to the country each year - action that results from flaws in the TSC. According to a U.S. Department of Justice report, the TSC administers a database with more than 200,000 names, persons who are claimed by the government to have "any degree of terrorism nexus." The report identifies the two major flaws in the system which is the focus of the lawsuit. First, the process for classifying these individuals is flawed, resulting in many individuals being "over-classified," considered dangerous when they pose no real threat to our nation. Second, mistakes in the database operated by the TSC cause many individuals to be "misidentified," and subject to terrorist screening for no reason whatsoever. As a result of these two problems, the plaintiffs in today's lawsuit collectively have been stopped and questioned on more than thirty (30) occasions, despite the fact that they are law abiding citizens, always cleared for re-entry to the U.S. after these recurring and punitive detentions.
Mr. Rahman is joined in Genevaby Harvey Grossman , Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.
SOURCE ACLU of Illinois