July 26, 2019

The opportunity to participate in Hajj is both a blessing and a privilege. For those participating in Hajj this year, we pray that it will be accepted and ask that you keep CAIR-LA in your duas. We also recommend that you take a moment to read this brief advisory about your rights while traveling.

Our Civil Rights Department continues to receive complaints from American Muslims who experience profiling at airports as well as re-entry delays. We believe that being aware of your civil rights will assist you in managing any situation that may arise during your trip.

Preparing for Exit and Entry in the United States
When entering or leaving the U.S., Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) officers CAN verify travelers’ identities, ask about the purpose of the trip, ask about countries visited, and ensure that travelers do not bring contraband into the country.

  • Plan Ahead – Always tell someone about your travel plans and provide them with your travel itinerary. Text your contacts from the airplane to let them know you’ve landed. They should contact CAIR-LA if you’re delayed longer than four (4) hours. Since CBP often denies phone access for those in secondary inspection, make sure to call your contacts before inspection.
  • Protect Your Electronic Privacy – Consider disabling the fingerprint reader on your phone since CBP officers can compel you to unlock your phone with your fingerprint. You do not have to provide passwords or unlock devices, but refusing to consent to a search
    of electronic devices may lead to their confiscation. If an officer searches and/or confiscates your laptop or cell
    phone, write down the officer’s name and get a receipt for your property.
  • Tell the Truth – Statements to CBP officers (either orally or in writing) must be truthful. Any lie – even a small one – is a crime.
  • Don’t Sign – DO NOT sign ANYTHING before speaking to a lawyer.
  • Ask Questions – Politely ask why you have been selected for an additional search
  • Document Inappropriate Questions and/or Discrimination – Inappropriate questions include questions about your religious practices, political activities, race, your relatives and/or friends, etc. Write down the agents’ names, badge numbers and the questions asked.
  • Report –  Call CAIR-LA Civil Rights Department: 714-776-1177 and report what happened.

Tips for U.S. Citizens 

  • U.S. citizens have an absolute right to enter the U.S. after traveling abroad.
  • If selected for secondary inspection, you have the right to decline to answer intrusive questions about your religious or political beliefs. Refusing to answer questions may cause lengthy delays.
  • If you are questioned about possible crimes, you should expressly request an attorney. You are entitled to an attorney for any criminal questioning and may exercise your right to remain silent.

Tips for Green Card Holders

  • Green card holders cannot be stripped of their immigration status without a hearing before an immigration judge.
  • Prolonged absences do not lead to automatic abandonment of a green card unless a green card holder signs Form l-407. Green card holders should not sign any documents presented by a CBP officer without fully understanding the contents of the document they are signing.
  • Green card holders should consult with an attorney before traveling.

Tips for Non-immigrant Visa Holders

  • You have the right to refuse to answer intrusive questions and to refuse to provide passwords to electronic devices and apps, but exercising these rights can come at a price.
  • CBP has broad discretion to refuse non-citizens entry to the United States and refusing to comply with even discriminatory searches may prevent you from being admitted. If you answer, your statements may be used against you in a criminal, terrorism or immigration investigation.
  • Non-immigrant visa holders should consult with an attorney before traveling.

Muslim Travelers are frequently visited by the FBI after returning for Hajj. Please review our KNOW YOUR RIGHTS in case this happens to you.