Somali-American Family Sues Feds After Border Crossing Detainment

The father's name was found on a terror watch list.

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Credit: ACLU

MINNEAPOLIS – A Somali-American family from Eagan is suing the U.S. government after being detained at the U.S. Canadian border for more than 10 hours.

In March 2015, Abdisalam Wilwal, his wife Sagal Abdigani, and their four children were traveling back to Minneapolis after visiting family in Canada. They were detained at the Portal, North Dakota station of U.S. Customs and Border Protection after Wilwal’s name was found on a terror watch list. The lawsuit, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, claims the detainment was a violation of the family’s constitutional rights.

According to the lawsuit, the family believes the detainment was unfairly abusive. Wilwal, who was handcuffed and taken to a separate room from his family, passed out hours into the detainment. The family was reportedly denied food for hours, and Abdigani claims her children were terrified by the incident.

After over 10 hours, the family was released after Wilwal was determined to not be a threat. The family claims they do not know why Wilwal is on a terror watch list, saying they believe Wilwal was unfairly placed on the list.

In a statement posted on ACLU’s website, Abdigani shared her side of the story.

“When we got to the border to cross into North Dakota, officers suddenly surrounded our minivan and pointed guns at the entire family,” Abdigani said. “The border officers took my husband away in handcuffs in front of my children, who were sobbing.”

Abdigani claims at one point her 8-year-old daughter said “maybe they will kill us at sunset.”

The lawsuit claims the border detention was a violation of the family’s Fourth Amendment right to be be free from unreasonable search and seizure. The family is demanding Wilwal’s name be removed from the terror watch list, and wants to ensure they will not be detained again because of the list.

“I want to go back to believing that my family and I can travel and come home safely, without our own government’s officials harming us,” Abdigani said in a statement.

The lawsuit, submitted by attorneys for the ACLU and Robin Kaplan LLC, was filed in U.S. District Court Thursday.

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