On April 1, 2003, Mr. Habeeb was stopped, searched, interrogated and subsequently arrested by Montana Border Patrol, when Mr. Habeeb, travelling en route from Seattle to Washington, DC, deboarded briefly at the train station in Havre.
Mr. Habeeb was in the United States as a legal refugee after suffering persecution under Saddam Hussein’s government. Along with other passengers on the train, Mr. Habeeb stepped off of the train to stretch his legs during a brief stop. Mr. Habeeb was singled out by Border Patrol agents who demanded to know where he was from. Mr. Habeeb responded that he was from Iraq and produced a copy of a form showing his admission to the United States as a refugee. The Agents demanded, however, that he produce verification that he had gone through the National Security Entry/Exit Registration System (NSEERS), but Mr. Habeeb’s refugee status did not require him to go through the NSEERS procedure and so he did not have the documents associated with that program. The Agents, nonetheless, arrested Mr. Habeeb, detained him in Havre and sent him to a detention center in Seattle to begin deportation proceedings.
Mr. Habeeb obtained representation from the National ACLU’s Immigration Project, Washington ACLU’s co-operating attorney, Jesse Wing, Washington ACLU and Montana ACLU. Judge Haddon in the US District Court in Great Falls, Montana, granted the Border Patrol’s motion to dismiss, but this decision was later vacated when, on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the US Department of Justice quickly settled the case, awarding Mr. Habeeb compensation and an official apology, and agreeing to train Border Patrol better.