With dismissal of lawsuit, Utah Muslim leader wont know why he landed on 'no-fly' list
(KUTV)- A federal judge in Salt Lake dismissed a lawsuit filed by Yussuf Abdi who claimed the government violated his constitutional rights when he was put on the no-fly list, keeping him boarding a plane from Kenya to Salt Lake City in 2017.
Abdi , who has lived in Utah for seven years, is a U.S. Citizen and Imam (spiritual leader) at a Salt Lake Mosque.
He believes he was targeted and put on the list because he is Muslim.
He hopes to challenge the decision of Judge Dee Benson for the sake of other members of his congregation who have also been placed on the no-fly list. “I want myself to be protected and my community,” he said.
With the dismissal of the lawsuit, Abdi loses the opportunity to question the government about the mysterious process that landed him and others on the list.
“There’s a screen of secrecy,“ Jim McConkie, the lawyer who represents Abdi, said.
He said there are likely hundreds of thousands of people on the list across the U.S.
McConkie is a co- founder of the Refugee Justice League in Utah which is a network of 400 Utah lawyers who help refugees in cases of discrimination.
He said the reason the government refused to let Abdi on the plane last summer is not known.
He has no criminal record, a young family and strong ties in the Utah community.
“There’s some evidence that some of this is quite arbitrary,” he said of the process.
Last June, Judge Dee Benson intervened and helped Abdi get off the watch list and board a plane home from Kenya.
Abdi was there picking-up his wife and children who left a refugee camp to join him in Utah.
But in his decision, issued on April 20, Judge Dee Benson said he dismissed the lawsuit because while Abdi was “consistently inconvenienced in his travel by his status on the watchlist” he was been able to travel afterall.
Plus, Benson said the constitution does not guarantee “convenient or unimpeded” travel.
McConkie finds it disturbing that only people who have lawyers can get off the list. The others just stop traveling.
He said when people like Abdi threaten lawsuits, the government allows those people off the list, which then becomes reason to dismiss a lawsuit.
When that happens, the government can’t be forced to answer questions about why people are placed on the list.
McConkie said it’s a disturbing pattern that gets the government out of explaining why some people are banned from flying.
“As the pattern develops, the court will get to a level where they say we need to look behind this. That’s what we hope,” he said.