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Documents Confirm That Federal Government Targeted Dissenters for Protected First Amendment Activity at Southern Border

The federal government has produced documents that confirm that Rev. Douša and others were targeted by the government because of their protected First Amendment activity.

After Reverend Kaji Douša filed a lawsuit in July 2019 against the Department of Homeland Security to stop its unlawful retaliation against her for providing pastoral services to migrants and refugees, Rev. Douša successfully moved to obtain expedited discovery to support her motion for preliminary injunction. The federal government has finally produced the documents, and they confirm exactly what Rev. Douša alleged in her complaint: that Rev. Douša and others were targeted by the government because of their protected First Amendment activity.

These documents are described in Rev. Douša’s brief filed today in support of her motion for preliminary injunction. Additionally, as this brief points out, neither the government’s opposition to Pastor Douša’s preliminary injunction motion nor its motion to dismiss disputes that she and others were targeted based on their exercise of First Amendment rights. Through these filings, the government does not contest: 

  • that it compiled a dossier of personal information on Pastor Douša;
  • that it tracked prayer vigils and rallies she led in New York; 
  • that they surveilled the church where she coordinates with the New Sanctuary Coalition;
  • that her ministry and advocacy work is constitutionally protected;
  • that she would not have found herself on a DHS targeting list, or been subject to government surveillance, except for the views she expresses and the people with and for whom she prays.

This case is about government harassment of and retaliation against dissenters and those who associate with marginalized communities. Rev. Douša was particularly targeted for her pastoral work ministering to migrants, officiating marriages, and organizing prayerful vigils that are sometimes critical of U.S. immigration law and policy, all of which are clearly protected by the Constitution and federal civil-rights law. The lawsuit asks the court to declare the actions targeting First Amendment rights as unlawful and asks for a permanent injunction against the government to stop surveilling, detaining, interrogating, or acting unlawfully against Rev. Dousa, both immediately and in the future, and in retaliation for how, when, and where she exercises her religion.

The free practice of religion is foundational to our democracy and core to Rev. Douša’s work. And the federal government’s punitive actions against Rev. Douša and other faith leaders, activists, journalists, and lawyers, are not only undemocratic but also illegal under the U.S. Constitution.

Please direct any inquiries about this case to press@protectdemocracy.org.