Muslim group sues over Wayne Co. man’s passport delay

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

A local chapter of a Muslim advocacy group filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday asking the U.S. Department of State to process a passport application of a Yemeni-American from Wayne County the group claims has been pending for more than a year.

According to the lawsuit filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Michigan in U.S. District Court, Ahmed Nagi, 32, a naturalized citizen since 1994, applied to renew his passport in May 2013. Since then, he’s been told his renewal application remained pending but “has yet to receive any substantial information” regarding why, the court filing said.

Last week, Nagi and CAIR-MI staff attorney Lena Masri contacted the U.S. Department of State’s National Passport Information Center for an update. A representative said the application was “in process,” but she didn’t know why processing was delayed and “also confirmed that the Department of State did not issue any correspondences ... that either requested additional information or explained the reasons for the delay,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit seeks the application’s processing as well as damages, costs and attorney’s fees.

“The federal government has routinely delayed the processing of passport applications for Muslims of Yemeni origin for an indefinite period of time,” Masri said in a statement. “This lawsuit challenges the federal government’s unchecked practice of denying these individuals their constitutionally protected right to travel without affording them their right to due process of law.”

According to the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs website, passport processing typically takes 4-6 weeks if routine, three weeks if expedited or eight business days if expedited at an agency.

In a statement Tuesday, a Department of State official said the department does not comment on pending litigation and “the Privacy Act prohibits us from providing information on individual passport cases.”

The lawsuit follows other allegations of government officials scrutinizing Arab-Americans and Muslims in Metro Detroit.

On Oct. 3, Nasser Beydoun, a Muslim businessman from Dearborn and former chairman and director for the Arab American Chamber of Commerce, sued federal officials over his alleged inclusion on a government “watch list” he said violated his constitutional rights.

In August, CAIR-MI said it had filed a federal lawsuit based on complaints the government unjustly put a disproportionate number of Muslim-Americans on the nation’s “terror watch” list.

The week before that suit, an online magazine posted secret documents from the National Counterterrorism Center’s Directorate of Terrorist Identities suggesting Dearborn is second only to New York among U.S. cities having the most people suspected of links to terrorism. U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade as well as local Muslims and Arab-Americans requested a congressional hearing on the report, which they criticized as inaccurate.