Djumaev v. U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation et al., No. 1:21-cv-05016-DG-MMH (E.D.N.Y., filed Sept. 8, 2021)
Plaintiff Akram Djumaev, a lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the United States, commenced this action against various federal agencies, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), alleging violations of his rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Mr. Djumaev is a resident of Chicago and a citizen of Uzbekistan who has been a lawful permanent resident since 2013. In January 2016, he traveled to Uzbekistan for the purpose of visiting family and getting engaged. After going through the security checkpoint at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, four law enforcement agents approached him and interrogated him, specifically asking whether he knew anyone in Turkey, Syria, or Afghanistan. Without consent or warrant, the agents then searched and confiscated his smartphone without providing any reason for doing so. After an hour of questioning, Mr. Djumaev was allowed to board the plane to Uzbekistan. However, the agents did not return his smartphone to him. In fact, to date, they still have not done so.
When Mr. Djumaev attempted to return home to the United States in March 2016, the airline attendant at the airport informed him that he would not be able to board—presumably because he had been placed on the U.S. government’s “No Fly List.” That same day, Mr. Djumaev contacted the U.S. embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and filed a Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) complaint with DHS shortly afterward.
Two months later, Mr. Djumaev was instructed to visit the embassy for an interview. When he arrived, he was taken to a windowless room and interrogated by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and State Department agents. The agents allegedly stated that Mr. Djumaev was a “threat to the U.S.” without any explanation or justification for that claim. They also suggested—again, without providing any basis—that they knew he had terrorist affiliations and had been involved in criminal activity. The agents repeatedly coerced Mr. Djumaev to admit that he was guilty and threatened that he would be arrested and imprisoned upon returning to the United States. After about two hours of interrogation, the agents told him that he had only two choices: either return to the United States. and be imprisoned, or agree to sign a form stating that he would not return to the United States. The agents handed him a pre-filled Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status. Although Mr. Djumaev had no desire whatsoever to relinquish his LPR status, he signed the form, believing that he had no other choice. During this process, the agents never informed Mr. Djumaev of his rights.
After that incident, Mr. Djumaev attempted twice to return to the United States, but he was denied boarding each time. Although LPRs placed on the No Fly List are eligible for a one-time waiver to return to the United States, the embassy has refused to issue such a waiver to Mr. Djumaev. Later, Mr. Djumaev retained counsel and challenged the validity of the I-407, but the government has not provided any response. As a result of Defendants’ actions, Mr. Djumaev has been unable to return to the United States for over five years and has suffered significant financial and emotional harms.
Mr. Djumaev’s complaint alleges that Defendants violated his due process rights under the Fifth Amendment by placing him on the No Fly List without adequate notice or opportunity to challenge the decision, as well as by coercing him to abandon his LPR status. The complaint further asserts that Defendants’ actions violated his rights under the INA (depriving him of LPR status and excluding him from the United States without charge or a removal hearing) and the Fourth Amendment (unlawful search and seizure of his smartphone and its private contents). Finally, Mr. Djumaev claims that Defendants’ actions were “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, otherwise not in accordance with law,” in violation of the APA. He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, and requests, among other things, that the district court issue an order voiding the improper I-407 form and directing Defendants to restore his LPR status. The parties are currently engaged in settlement discussions.
Counsel: Jamila Marjani Hall & Sharnell S. Simon | Jones Day, Atlanta
Ramzi Kassem & Naz Ahmad | Main Street Legal Services, Inc.