In 2011, President Barack Obama announced a national strategy for countering violent extremism (CVE) to attempt to prevent the “radicalization” of potential violent extremists. The Obama Administration intended the strategy to employ a community-based approach, bringing together the government, law enforcement, and local communities for CVE efforts. Despite claiming to target extremism in all forms, government-funded CVE programs in the United States have almost exclusively focused on Islamic extremism. One pilot program focused on the Twin Cities in Minnesota—Minneapolis and St. Paul—home to the largest Somali community in the United States, most of whom are Muslim. The Trump Administration has rebranded and refunded the programs, exacerbating ongoing racial discrimination, surveillance, and police brutality in the Twin Cities. Despite their continued use, CVE programs draw criticism for being ineffective and even counterproductive to preventing extremist violence and for driving increased marginalization of American Muslims.
This Comment argues that, as implemented, government-funded CVE programs in the Twin Cities violate American Muslims’ Equal Protection rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Specifically, CVE programs impermissibly target Somalis on the basis of national origin and religion, and many of these programs are not sufficiently narrowly tailored to pass constitutional muster. To effectively and constitutionally prevent violent extremism, the U.S. government must allow communities to meaningfully identify and address their own needs and potential vulnerabilities, without being subjected to heightened surveillance and marginalization.