As’ Salaamu Alaykum,

As we arrive at the start of the blessed pilgrimage of Hajj, we pray that Insha’Allah that you arrive safely at the holy sites, your Hajj is accepted, ask that you keep CAIR-SFBA in your duas, and recommend that you read this short guide on your rights while traveling.

Unfortunately, we continue to receive complaints from American Muslims who experience profiling at airports as well as re-entry delays. In addition, the Supreme Court’s refusal to block President Trump’s Muslim Ban has increased Muslim travelers’ risk of security related delays and even detention

We at CAIR-SFBA believe being aware of your civil rights as those embarking on international travel will assist you in managing any situations that may arise during your trip.

Muslim Ban 3.0

On June 26, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision on Trump’s bigoted Muslim Ban, refusing to address the facts behind the bigoted ban, and sending the case back down to the lower courts for additional proceedings. The decision was a setback, but it was far from the final chapter in this fight. Now, more than ever, it’s important to know your rights. Since December 4, 2017, the Muslim Ban has been in full effect for individuals from: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen (“Target Countries”). Many travelers from these Muslim-Majority countries face great difficulty applying for visas to be united with family, study in the U.S., and seek urgent medical treatment.

Muslim Ban 3.0 does NOT apply to:
  • U.S. Citizens (native-born or naturalized); Green Card holders (legal permanent residents);
  • Dual-nationals travelling on a passport from a country other than the Target Countries;
  • People admitted or paroled into the U.S. on or after the effective date of the new Muslim Ban;
  • People who have been granted asylum by the U.S.; Refugees already admitted to the U.S.;
  • Individuals granted withholding of removal, advance parole, or protection under the Convention against Torture; or people with a document other than a visa that allows them to travel to the U.S., if the document is dated on or after the effective date of the new Muslim Ban;
  • Visa holders from Target Countries who had a valid visa on June 29, 2017;
    • CAUTION: Visa holders should consult with an immigration attorney to confirm your visa does not prohibit travel outside the United States
    • NOTE: Unlike earlier bans, there is now no exception for “bona fide relationships” (e.g., close family ties such as a parent, spouse, child, sister, brother, fiancé(e), etc.)
  • When planning your Hajj travel be sure to check all Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Transport Security Administration’s (TSA) regulations at the TSA website as well as the Customs and Border Patrol’s (CBP) regulations on the CBP website.
  • Travelers who book tickets in advance and book travel with a return trip may experience less hassle on the outbound trip and the inbound trip (coming back into the U.S.).
  • Give a family member or CAIR-SFBA’s Civil Rights Department the following: a detailed itinerary for your trip, your date of birth, and your passport or visa details. This enables an advocate to assist you should you experience a delay on your return (e.g. secondary inspection or secondary detention).
  • Memorize CAIR-SFBA’s phone number (408.986.9874) or one of a close family member as you may not have access to your phone or personal belongings if you are delayed in secondary inspection when you return.
  • CBP can at times conduct a cursory search of files on laptops, cell phones, and other electronic devices. To best protect your privacy, we recommend you transfer and then clear all data off your device by storing it at a remote storage location such as cloud-based services, prior to travel out of the country. In the alternative, you can travel using secondary/backup devices.
  • If you have experienced invasive questioning on previous returns into the U.S., it is advised that you consult with our civil rights department or another attorney before your next trip. Please also see this CAIR travel advisory in regards to being detained while traveling.

Please keep the following in mind if you plan to bring back any items:

  • Check in any Zam Zam water bottles that you want to bring back. Airlines will not allow you to carry liquids in large quantities on the plane, so be sure to check in Zam Zam and any other liquids you are transporting.
  • If you are bringing back dates, make sure they are processed and sufficiently dry. You should consider vacuum sealing your dates to ensure freshness and to minimize the likelihood of contamination.
  • When packing, ensure that your clothes and shoes are clean from any soil. CBP has strict rules regarding the entry of soil, chemicals, etc. into the country.
  • If you are bringing back currency (money, gold bars, etc.) worth more than $10,000, you will need to declare it. All items received or purchased, irrespective of value, must also be declared. A failure to declare may result in an interrogation and confiscation by the CBP. Please check the CBP website for more information on customs duty.
  • CBP can at times conduct a cursory search of files on laptops, cell phones, and other electronic devices. To best protect your privacy, we recommend you transfer and then clear all data off your device by storing it at a remote storage location such as cloud-based services, prior to travel back into the country. In the alternative, you can travel using secondary/backup devices.

To re-enter the U.S., travelers must go through two processes at US ports of entry: immigration and customs. CBP is a department within the DHS responsible for both aspects at the point of entry.

CBP officers are required to verify the identities of travelers upon their re-entry into the U.S. They must also ensure that travelers have not been engaged in illegal activity that poses a threat to national security. It is critical to present valid documentation in the form of a valid passport and/or proper immigration paperwork if you are seeking re-entry into the U.S. Remember, U.S. citizens have the unqualified right to re-enter the country.

There are generally two types of inspections that CBP officers engage in:

  • Primary Inspection: All travelers must pass through the preliminary inspection procedure. You can be asked about the general purpose of your trip (personal, business, or both), your immigration status, if you are carrying any banned item (includes banned agricultural items), and the amount of currency you are declaring.
  • Secondary Inspection: Some travelers will be detained in a separate area for a variety of reasons upon return to the U.S. These travelers will be screened more thoroughly and may be asked intrusive questions. If you have experienced this before, contact CAIR-SFBA prior to your trip.

Travelers are only required to answer questions about their citizenship, the nature of their trip, and anything they are bringing back to the U.S. that they did not have with them when they left. You should immediately and politely object to any questions about your community, family, religion, politics, or work by mentioning that these questions have no bearing on your entry into the U.S.

U.S. Citizens
  • You have the absolute right to return to the U.S. If you are denied boarding of your return flight, contact CAIR-SFBA or a close family member immediately.
  • If selected for secondary inspection, you have the absolute right to remain silent (apart from questions about your identity and nature of travel as mentioned earlier). Exercising your right to silence MAY cause some delay.
  • Your electronics can be searched*, with or without your consent, including social media profiles, emails, etc.
  • You are NOT required to unlock your electronic devices or provide your password/PIN numbers to open electronic devices. You MAY be compelled to unlock your device(s) if using fingerprint readers or other biometric sensors and thus, those capabilities should be turned off while traveling.
  • If your electronic device is confiscated, write down the agent’s name and ask for a receipt for your property so you can track it, and have it returned to you.
Non-U.S. Citizens
  • You have the same rights as U.S. citizens, as mentioned in the earlier section, but exercising them may cause delay or denial of entry, depending on your immigration status.
  • If you are a lawful permanent resident (LPR i.e. green card holder) returning from brief and innocent travel abroad, and you present your valid green card, you must be admitted into the country.
  • If you are a non-citizen visa holder, you may be denied entry into the U.S. if you refuse to answer officers’ questions.

If you have any concerns or questions, please complete this incident report form or call us at 408.986.9874 to speak with our legal services team. Our legal advice is free and confidential.

Please keep us in your duas during this blessed journey.

Ammad Rafiqi
Civil Rights & Legal Services Coordinator