You Promised Me a Safer Place

Ayman Soliman is no stranger to oppression. He participated in student protests in Egypt. As he became more involved, he started writing and taking pictures to document what was happening on the ground as a freelance journalist. The Egyptian authorities grabbed him multiple times and threw him in jail. There, he was beaten and tortured for days at a time. Ayman feared for his safety. 

 

He came to the U.S. to escape political oppression in Egypt. Prominent American journalists got involved, sending letters and affidavits on his behalf. He was granted asylum and started a new life in the U.S. He felt safer here, where the First Amendment right to free speech is protected. And then… 

 

Mr. Soliman applied to work for the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) as an Islamic Chaplain, and he was offered the position. His first background check showed an FBI flag, which caused the Department of Corrections to take back the offer. To show that he did not pose any risk, Mr. Soliman provided his fingerprints to the Oregon State Police. He was told that his fingerprints did not match the FBI flag.  

 

The ODOC again offered the position to Mr. Soliman. On the day he was starting his new job, the Department of Corrections sent his fingerprints to the police for one final clearance. His clearance was denied because of the FBI flag, which was still unresolved. Mr. Soliman worked remotely as a temporary solution. 

 

Mr. Soliman then contacted The Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America (CLCMA), funded by MLFA. We contacted the employment counsel for the State of Oregon and submitted a Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) application on Mr. Soliman’s behalf. In the meantime, the Oregon Department of Corrections had to let Mr. Soliman go because they needed the chaplain to be physically present. The Department of Homeland Security issued a final determination, which didn’t give much information but seemed to match similar letters received by people who are not on the No Fly List but who are in the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). 

 

CLCMA filed a complaint in federal court on behalf of Mr. Soliman on January 12, 2022. Our legal team also filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with multiple agencies to determine the reason for the FBI flag. The government filed a motion to dismiss. CLCMA attorneys filed a response in opposition to their motion to dismiss, stating that Mr. Soliman’s Fifth Amendment rights were violated (“Under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ‘[no] person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law’” (plaintiff’s response document)). This guarantees the protected right to pursue a chosen profession.  

 

Mr. Soliman, as well as many of our other clients, would like to understand WHY. When we are innocent of any crimes and our lives are turned upside down, it’s natural to want an explanation for this suffering and uncertainty. MLFA’s strategic approach to impact litigation also seeks to uncover the underlying issues and to seek justice at the foundational level of our society. America promised refuge to Ayman Soliman and many others. We love this country, and we want to keep its promises.