SCOTUS Considers Challenge to No-Fly List and Watchlist Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC Files Amicus Brief Detailing Critical Background on the List’s Discriminatory Impact on Asian Communities

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC, along with pro-bono counsel Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, and 24 civil & human rights orgs filed the brief
For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian American Justice Center (Advancing Justice – AAJC), along with pro-bono counsel Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, challenged the U.S. government’s No-Fly List as Islamophobic and discriminatory towards Asian Americans, in particular, South Asians and Muslims, in an amicus brief filed in the case of Federal Bureau of Investigation v. Fikre. The case is currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

At the center of the case is Yonas Fikre, a naturalized U.S. citizen, who is challenging his inclusion on the Terrorist Screening Dataset (the “Watchlist”) and its most restrictive subset, the No-Fly List, as a government tool that is ripe for error and abuse due to the broad overreach and unfettered ability to operate these Lists with little to no oversight, to keep profiling and targeting Muslim and South Asian communities. Leaked documents have revealed that more than 98% of names on the List are of Muslim origin. 

“The United States has a history of exclusion, targeting and scapegoating of Asian Americans and immigrants as national security threats based on race, ethnicity, religion, or ancestry,” said Shalaka Phadnis, Litigation Staff Attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC. “The Supreme Court’s decision is going to be pivotal in the fight by Muslim and South Asian communities to stop travel discrimination and will impact individuals’ ability to challenge their placement on the opaque No Fly List. Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC is deeply concerned with the unjust profiling of and the cyclical treatment of our communities as national security threats.” 

It is frequent practice by the government to not tell individuals when or why they are placed on the No-Fly List, and they are generally not told if (or why) they are removed. After the government placed Mr. Fikre on the No-Fly List, the FBI offered to remove him if he became an informant on his mosque in Portland, Oregon. Mr. Fikre refused. He then went on to sue the government based on a violation of his due process rights.  

“The lack of transparency in the operation of the No-Fly List and its discriminatory use against Muslim and South Asian communities are critical background to understanding why Mr. Fikre’s challenge to his former placement on the No-Fly List should continue,” said John Goerlich of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, pro bono counsel.

24 Asian American, civil rights, and human rights organizations signed on to Advancing Justice – AAJC’s amicus brief