(LOS ANGELES)-The ACLU of Southern California announced that it has filed a lawsuit on behalf of American citizen Samy Ali, to challenge the federal government’s revocation of his wife’s visa in retaliation for his exercising the right to counsel during FBI questioning.  The case was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Ali fully cooperated with the FBI as it questioned him about his brother-in-law, who had gone missing overseas.  Ali, concerned for his brother-in-law as well as for the well-being of his sister, niece and nephew, maintained close contact with the FBI for several months.  However, despite his cooperation, the FBI agents later turned hostile, threatening Ali with the baseless accusation that he had engaged in illegal activity by accumulating credit card debt.  Shaken and disturbed by the FBI’s threats, Ali sought the advice of an attorney, who informed the FBI that she would represent Ali at any further FBI questioning.  In response, the FBI stated that they were no longer interested in speaking with Ali if he was represented. 

Several weeks later, Ali flew to Egypt to pick up his wife and young child, and return to the United States to begin a new life together.  Ali’s wife had been granted a visa and green card by United Citizenship and Immigration Services earlier that year.  However, shortly after Ali arrived, the U.S. Embassy informed him that his wife’s visa had been revoked and failed to provide any valid basis for the revocation.  Ali was forced to return home alone.  The FBI later made clear that Ali could fix his wife’s visa problems if he would cooperate further without his attorney. 

 “The government flagrantly misused its immigration authority to retaliate against Mr. Ali, who had been fully cooperating with the FBI,” said Michael Kaufman, an attorney with the ACLU of Southern California.  “Unfortunately, Mr. Ali’s case is part of a larger pattern of abusive FBI tactics that have driven a wedge between Muslim communities and law enforcement, making us all less safe.” 

Ali’s case presents the latest example of a pattern of abuse whereby the FBI misuses the immigration laws to coerce members of the Muslim community to provide information, a phenomenon documented in a recently issued report by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice entitled “Under the Radar.”  The FBI’s tactics have caused distrust between the Muslim community and the FBI throughout the country. 

“I have always considered myself a proud American, but I am now afraid and distrustful of the FBI,” said Ali.  “I tried my best to help the FBI and they repaid me with threats and separation from my wife and daughter.” 

“The government’s retaliatory revocation of his wife’s visa constitutes a clear violation of Mr. Ali’s constitutional rights,” said Geoffrey Forgione, pro bono counsel from the law firm Jones Day.  “The government should make right this egregious wrong by apologizing to Mr. Ali and his family and immediately re-issuing the visa so that the family can be reunited.” 

The law suit asks a federal court to order the government to re-issue Marwa’s visa according to law.  No monetary relief is sought.