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ATLANTA — The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit today demanding government documents about the on-the-ground implementation of President Trump’s Muslim bans.

Today’s action is part of a total of 13 FOIA lawsuits filed by ACLU affiliates across the country. The ACLU of North Carolina lawsuit, filed in conjunction with the ACLU affiliates in Georgia, South Carolina and West Virginia, seeks records from U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Atlanta Field Office.  In particular, the lawsuit seeks records related to CBP’s implementation of President Trump’s Muslim bans at Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte Douglas International Airports.

The ACLU first sought this information through FOIA requests submitted to CBP on February 2. Since the government has failed to substantively respond, the ACLU is now suing.

“President Trump’s unconstitutional Muslim travel bans disrupted people's lives and spread fear and uncertainty throughout our communities. The public deserves to know how these orders were carried out so that officials can be held accountable to ‘We the People’,” said Irena Como, Staff Attorney with the ACLU of North Carolina.

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By Mike Meno
ACLU-NC Communications Director

All members of the public – regardless of their personal religious beliefs – should feel welcome when they attend meetings of their local government that discuss issues affecting the community. But for years in Rowan County, North Carolina, that was not the case. The local county commissioners routinely coerced members of the public to participate in sectarian prayers – and in doing so, they violated the Constitution.

That was the central argument ACLU of North Carolina Legal Director Chris Brook made to all 15 judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on March 22, when the full court sat en banc for arguments in a lawsuit the ACLU-NC filed four years ago on behalf of three Rowan County residents.

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RICHMOND, Va. – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina and three Rowan County residents will on March 22 ask a federal appeals court to uphold a lower court ruling that found that Rowan County commissioners violated the Constitution when they coerced public participation in prayers that overwhelmingly advanced beliefs specific to one religion.

All 15 judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit will hear oral arguments in the case during the en banc hearing. In October, the appeals court agreed to vacate and reconsider a divided 2-1 decision in September that found the practice constitutional.

“Our clients simply want to ensure that when they and others attend local government meetings, they will not have to worry about being coerced into participating in a sectarian prayer that goes against their beliefs and being discriminated against by local officials when they don’t,” said ACLU of North Carolina Legal Director Chris Brook. “We believe that the First Amendment is on our side, and we look forward to making our argument to the full appeals court.”

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This is a remarkable day. When Donald Trump was elected president, we promised that if he tried to implement his unconstitutional and un-American policies that we would take him to court. We did that today. And we won.

Yesterday President Trump signed an executive order that suspended resettlement of Syrian refugees indefinitely, suspended all other refugee resettlement for 120 days, and banned the entry of nationals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen for 90 days. All seven countries are predominately Muslim countries. We have no doubt that the motivation behind the executive order was discriminatory. This was a Muslim ban wrapped in a paper-thin national security rationale.

The executive order went into effect immediately and so did its destructive intent. At John F. Kennedy International Airport last night, Hameed Khalid Darweesh arrived and was immediately detained. Darweesh worked as interpreter for the Army’s 101st Airborne Division and, according to Brandon Friedman, a platoon leader in Iraq, saved countless U.S. service members’ lives. We don’t know how many other refugees and foreign nationals with green cards or visas might have been detained when they tried to make their way into the United States today, but we intend to find out. We are asking anyone with any information to get in touch with the ACLU.

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