Oct 18 2012

US citizen banished by no-fly order: Is it because he stood up for his rights?

In another depressingly familiar episode in an ongoing saga of de facto banishment of US citizens from their own country, New York City native Samir Suljovic has been trapped in immigration limbo in Frankfurt since October 1st, following a visit to some of his relatives in Montenegro, because of a no-fly order from the DHS forbidding any airline to allow him to board a flight home to the USA.

What’s noteworthy in Mr. Suljovic’s case — other than the persistence of the DHS in these flagrant violations of the right of US citizens to return to their home country — is that he appears to be the same person who got some publicity two years ago when he sued a New York hotel for refusing to hire him unless he shaved off his beard, which he argued was an expression of his religious belief as a Muslim.

Based on what was said in the press, Mr. Suljovic would appear to have had a good case against the hotel. There’s plenty of case law about discrimination against people with religiously-required beards, mainly involving Sikhs and orthodox Jews, and his arguments were far from novel or extreme.

But in other cases, notably that of Julia Shearson, there are indications that DHS designations of “suspected terrorists” have been based on press reports of civil rights activism by Muslims.

The secrecy of the administrative “no-fly” decision-making process leaves us to wonder whether Mr. Suljovic, like Ms. Shearson, was singled out by the DHS for restriction of his right to travel because he stood up, publicly, for his rights as a Muslim.

If no-fly injunctions were issued, as they should be, by judges, following adversary fact-finding proceedings in which the burden of proof is on those who advocate restrictions on the right to travel, we wouldn’t have to wonder what (if any) evidence they were based on, or whether they were being used for invidious discrimination against particular religions or political activists.