Conyers Initiates Investigation of Religious Profiling by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency in Michigan

Conyers Initiates Investigation of  Religious Profiling by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency in Michigan

(Detroit)—Today, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement regarding allegations charging the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP) with improper and inappropriate interrogations singling out American-Islamic citizens.

“The allegations of religious profiling raised by Michigan’s Council on American-Islamic Relations in Detroit yesterday should be of concern to all Americans,” said Conyers.  “CAIR has alleged that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents have engaged in a pattern of invasive body searches and interrogations concerning the religious beliefs of American-Islamic citizens while returning home from Canada.”

In CAIR’s letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, CAIR described the interrogations as follows:

The passengers hand their passports to an agent.  The passengers are immediately told to turn their vehicles off.  Within seconds, their vehicles are surrounded by agents brandishing weapons in their direction, whether or not there are women and children in the car.  In some instances, there are snipers.  The men are thrown against their vehicles, handcuffed, and taken inside for questioning.  An invasive and humiliating body search is performed, which many have described as sexual harassment.  Some are left handcuffed for hours on end, in many cases standing upright.  Others are left in a cell.  At least a dozen Muslim women of Somali origin have also reported being subjected to invasive and humiliating searches at the border that they felt were inappropriate and a form of sexual harassment.

American Muslims crossing the border have reported in alarming numbers that they are being subjected to extensive inappropriate questioning pertaining to religion and religious practices.  A number of questions appear to be most common:

1.      Do you pray five times a day?

2.      Which mosque do you pray at?

3.      Do you pray your morning prayer at the mosque?

4.      Who is the Imam (religious leader) at your mosque?

5.      Who else prays at your mosque?

6.      Which Muslim charities have you donated to?

7.      Which Muslim countries have you traveled to?

8.      During your travels to these countries, have you been approached by anyone suspicious?

9.      What do you think of Anwar al-Awlacki?

10.   Which Muslim organizations are you affiliated with?

11.   Are you affiliated with any terrorist organizations?

12.   Do you know any terrorists?

13.   Are there terrorists in your mosques?

All in all, the process can take anywhere between two to ten hours.  More disconcerting is that these same individuals report being subjected to the same mistreatment and inappropriate questioning each and every time they cross the border.

“With federal hearings on radicalization and intense scrutiny by law enforcement of religious institutions, the American-Islamic community today is living in a climate that has the risk of producing a siege mentality,” said Conyers.  “I am therefore contacting the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to initiate an investigation of these allegations, and I will be consulting Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas).”

“The American-Islamic community should know that the federal government will protect the interests of the community, while maintaining the appropriate focus on national security.  These allegations of racial and religious profiling at the border are not new and have been supported by previous studies of the Government Accountability Office.  For example, in 2000, the GAO found that the U.S. Customs’ patterns used to select airline passengers for more intrusive searches resulted in women and minorities being selected at rates that were not consistent with the rates of finding contraband.”

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