National Security and Civil Rights

We protect the civil rights of individuals and communities unjustly impacted by overbroad national security policies. We strive to confront the day-to-day breaches of civil rights to impact the larger social and institutional dynamics that prevent the realization of equal rights.

Historical Context

During World War II, over 110,000 Japanese-Americans were unjustly imprisoned in concentration camps scattered around the United States. At a low point in American legal history, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Korematsu v. United States that the military, in a time of war, had the authority to issue race-based orders depriving Japanese-Americans of their rights, even without proof that they posed a threat to anyone. It was not until 1988 that Congress formally acknowledged that treatment of Japanese-Americans had been based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership,” not military necessity.

Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, which helped clear Mr. Fred Korematsu’s name in 1983, is committed to standing up for our cherished constitutional freedoms and liberties in the post-9/11 environment. We protect the civil rights of individuals and communities unjustly impacted by overbroad national security policies, especially Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities. We strive to confront the day-to-day breaches of civil rights to impact the larger social and institutional dynamics that prevent the realization of equal rights through a combination of direct legal services, impact litigation, and public education and advocacy

Direct Legal Services

We provide free legal services for people experiencing the following issues:
1. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) questioning
2. Problems when entering the U.S. (for example, long searches, delays, questioning by U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
3. Problems boarding flights (delays, extra searches, etc. by Transportation and Security Administration)
4. Discrimination by local police or federal law enforcement
5. Filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for records about you

Impact Litigation

ACLU of Nor Cal, Asian Law Caucus, and SF Bay Guardian v. FBI (Case No. 3:10-cv-03759-RS, N.D. Cal.
Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus, the ACLU of Northern California and the Bay Guardian filed a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request in 2010, followed with a lawsuit to enforce the FOIA in 2011, seeking documents concerning surveillance of AAMEMSA communities. The lawsuit is still pending, however, to date, the FBI has disclosed over fifty thousand pages in response to the lawsuit.
• Our analysis of the documents, which prove the scope of FBI surveillance, biased FBI training, and racial mapping

2. Gill v. U.S. Department of Justice (3:14-cv-03120, N.D. Cal.)
Along with the ACLU of Northern California and law firm counsel, the Asian Law Caucus represents five individuals who were placed in a federal counter-terrorism database for totally innocent activity pursuant to the “Suspicious Activity Reporting” program.  The plaintiffs are asking a court to strike down the federal SAR guidelines because they contradict a federal regulation that limits the collection of criminal intelligence information to circumstances that give rise to reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and because the guidelines were not passed with proper notice to the public and an opportunity for the public to comment.
• Complaint (filed July 10, 2014)


Surveillance of AMEMSA Communities
Advancing Justice-ALC is committed to stopping the unfair surveillance of Muslim and other AMEMSA communities by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local law enforcement agencies. For example, we are currently working with groups like the ACLU of Northern California to respond to the overbroad Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) program. We also resist the use of informants by the FBI in these communities because of their deleterious impact on community trust and their reliance on vulnerable individuals.  In 2012, Advancing Justice-ALC played a key role in passing the Safe San Francisco Ordinance, which requires the San Francisco Police Department to be more transparent about its role in the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and to comply with local regulations limiting surveillance and profiling of community members.
• In San Francisco: Civil Rights Groups Oppose Secret Agreement with FBI (Mar. 14, 2012)

Defending Civic Engagement by AMEMSA Communities
Since 9/11, AMEMSA communities have been subjected to coordinated attacks by government agencies and private actors meant to discourage exercise of constitutional freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment. Advancing Justice—ALC works to resist this chilling effect by supporting the First Amendment rights of young AMEMSA community members on university campuses. This work involves direct engagement with university administrators and federal government agencies to ensure respect for the First Amendment, and to ensure that AMEMSA communities are not unfairly targeted or deprived of their First Amendment freedoms.
Recent examples of this work include:
(a) Filing an amicus brief in the Irvine 11 case
(b) Advocacy in San Francisco to meet hate speech with empowered community speech and other projects in response to bus advertisements attacking Arab and Muslim communities
(c) Engagement with the University of California to promote more speech-friendly policies
(d) Letters to over 200 university administrators advising them about First Amendment issues


Protecting the Freedom to Travel
Since mid-2013, Advancing Justice-ALC has been working with civil rights and community organizations around the country to document and respond to a pattern of passport confiscations affecting the Yemeni-American community and depriving it of an essential characteristic of citizenship – the freedom to travel. 

Links: – Website created by Asian Law Caucus and partners to deliver Know Your Rights information to Yemeni-Americans
• Media: Yemeni-Americans Cry Foul Over Passport Revocations, Al Jazeera America (Jan. 21, 2014)
• Media: Oakland man stuck in Yemen fights to return, Bay Area News Group (Jan. 31, 2014) 
Please visit for more information or for assistance with this issue.

Civil Rights Outreach Project

The Asian Law Caucus supervises the Civil Rights Outreach Project (CROP), a Student Initiated Legal Services Project at U.C. Berkeley School of Law. With ALC, CROP provides community education and legal referrals to communities impacted by post-9/11 racial and religious profiling, discrimination, and harassment, with a specific focus on the AMEMSA community. 
CROP students also engage with a range of legal research and advocacy issues with ALC’s NSCR team, learning the ins and outs of community lawyering and creative advocacy. Here are some CROP projects this year:
Campaign against Bias in Police Training
In 2014, the University of California Police Department (UCPD) participated in a training drill at the Urban Shield conference which featured offensive, anti-Muslim stereotypes. CROP has been actively advocating for UCPD reform to ensure that the training materials given to law enforcement agencies follow constitutional provisions against racial and religiously profiling, by writing letters to the UCPD Chief and submitting California Public Records Act requests. CROP will pursue the issue with other local law enforcement agencies as well. 



Returning Home: How U.S. Government Practices Undermine Civil Rights At Our Nation’s Doorstep


Impact of Sanctions Against Iran (English)


Impact of Sanctions Against Iran (Farsi)


The Impact of U.S. Sanctions Against Iran on You (English)

UPDATED Edition, November 2012

“Unintended Victims: The Impact of U.S. Sanctions Against Iran on Iranian Americans (English)

November 2012