SALT LAKE CITY – A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Utah Muslim leader who said he was wrongly placed on a government watch list and temporarily blocked from leaving Kenya with his family last summer.
The lengthy screening process undergone by Yussuf Abdi on flights since the trip is inconvenient but not unconstitutional, U.S. District Judge Dee Benson wrote in the decision Monday.
While the right to travel is protected by the Constitution, “the Supreme Court has not recognized a right to convenient or unimpeded travel,” Benson wrote.
Lawyers for Abdi, an imam and U.S. citizen, said the screening is more than an inconvenience. They haven’t decided if they’ll appeal the ruling.
“As Yussuf Abdi’s experience makes clear, being on a terrorist watch list can separate citizens from their families,” attorney Gadeir Abbas said Tuesday.
The lawsuit helped bring Abdi home from Kenya last year, and air travel has been easier for him since the case was filed, Abbas said.
The suit was filed after Abdi went to Kenya to bring back his wife and five children, who had received visa approval to join him in the U.S.
Abdi was initially blocked from boarding the plane back to the U.S. but was eventually allowed to return two days later, after his lawyers went to court and the U.S. attorney’s office in Utah intervened on his behalf.
Since then, he’s taken three trips, including a religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, and been subjected to long security checks that indicate he’s on a government list of people identified for extra scrutiny, according to court documents.
The lawsuit alleged Abdi was added to a watch list in 2014 that let him fly but required extra security measures. He asked to be removed, arguing he had no criminal record and no reason to be on the list.
Abdi has lived in Utah for six years and is the imam of Salt Lake City’s Madina Masjid Islamic Center.