This case challenges an unlawful search and seizure, as prohibited in the 4th Amendment, and asserts the rights of U.S. citizens—particularly immigrants—traveling across borders. 

Case Background

In March 2015, the Sagal Abdigani and her husband, Abdisalam Wilwal, traveled from their home near Minneapolis, Minnesota with their four children (aged five, six, eight, and 14) to visit Abdigani’s sister in Regina, Saskatchewan. On their way home, the family sought to reenter the United States at the border crossing in North Dakota. Within minutes, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers surrounded the family’s vehicle with guns drawn, handcuffed Abdisalam Wilwal, and forcibly detained him and the rest of the family for over 10 hours.

Wilwal was kept isolated from his family and handcuffed for the duration of his detention, without access to food or water. He passed out, requiring emergency medical attention. He was questioned about his religion, travels, and purpose of his family’s trip. His family was also kept in detention, solely for traveling with Wilwal. Abdigani was prevented from speaking with 911 to report her detention. Abdigani also was not given food during the 10 hour detention, and had to beg repeatedly for food to be provided to her four children. All of them feared for their life.

CBP had no probable cause for detaining Wilwal and his family. Wilwal and Abdigani are both U.S. citizens. Wilwal’s name appeared on the government’s terrorism-related watchlist by error. The government has refused to tell Wilwal why his name appeared on the watchlist and has not provided him with an opportunity to correct or challenge this error. Regardless, this error was not justification for the CPB officer’s treatment of Wilwal and his family.

CBP officers violated the Wilwal-Abdigani family members’ Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. Their policies failed to protect the Wilwal-Abdigani family’s constitutional rights. The lawsuit also targets Homeland Security and those responsible for erroneously placing Wilwal on the watchlist and failing to provide an adequate redress process as a violation of his right to due process under the Fifth Amendment.

The lawsuit was filed against the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Terrorist Screening Center.



ACLU: Handeyside and Hina Shamsi; ACLU-MN: Teresa Nelson, John Gordon, and Ian Bratlie; and Randall Tietjen, Ami ElShareif, and Sarah Friedricks of Robins Kaplan

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

Robins Kaplan

Date filed

July 13, 2017


Federal Court – District of Minnesota