The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit seeking the release of government documents it says could show whether immigration laws have been used to deny visas to foreign scholars and activists on ideological grounds.
The American Association of University Professors and the PEN American Center joined the ACLU on Thursday in filing the suit, which charges that the U.S. government is illegally withholding materials sought by the ACLU under a Freedom of Information Act request in March.
Among the documents the group requested were records showing the government's use of a section of the Patriot Act that allows it to block people who have used their positions "to endorse or espouse terrorist activity or to persuade others to support terrorist activity."
The group said it believed the statute may have been used to exclude prominent intellectuals and academics, including leading Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan, whose visa for entry from Europe was denied days before he was to begin teaching at the University of Notre Dame, in Notre Dame, Ind.
At the time, the Department of Homeland Security cited "public safety or national security interests" but released no specifics.
The ACLU said its FOIA request was filed with the Department of State, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security and the Central Intelligence Agency.
Homeland Security spokesman Brian Doyle said the department does not comment on pending litigation. He said the FOIA process takes time but declined to comment on reasons for a delay.
A CIA spokesman said the agency does not comment on matters before the court.
The Department of State and the Department of Justice had no immediate comment, AP reported. V.A.