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Iranian-American Attorney Banafsheh Akhlaghi Speaks Out Against the Detention of Her Clients and Hundreds of Other Men From Muslim Nations Last Week in Los Angeles

December 23, 2002

Immigration lawyers have estimated that between 500and 2,500 Middle Eastern immigrants have been detainedin California since last week. That is when male visaholders ages 16 and older from Iran, Iraq, Libya,Sudan and Syria were asked to report to immigrationoffices to be fingerprinted and photographed.

Another 500 immigrants are believed to have beenarrested since the registration process began inNovember. The Immigration and Naturalization Servicehas refused to release official figures on the numberof detentions.

On Wednesday, thousands Iranian-Americans protestedthe arrests outside the federal building in LosAngeles.

Over the weekend in Long Beach, 1,500 Muslim leadersand activists gathered at the Muslim Public AffairsCouncil. Iranian-American attorney Banafsheh Akhlaghiretold the story of her clients who were swept up lastweek in the massive immigrant crackdown in LosAngeles.

Akhlaghi said, "It’s not a Muslim thing. It’s not anIranian thing. It’s not an Arab thing. It’s a humanthing… Today it’s men over the age of 16 from thesecountries, tomorrow it will be women over the age of16 from these countries, then we will go to permanentresidents. They don’t care where your citizenship is.They look to where you were born. Tomorrow I could beone of those folks because I was born in Iran. It’s ahuman thing. It’s a wake-up call."

She said her clients had been shuttled around half thecountry and been denied legal counsel.

"They were placed on a plane sent to Arizona, thensent to Kentucky, then sent to Chicago, then back toArizona, back to Oakland, Bakersfield and sometimearound four o’clock this morning they made their wayto INS in San Diego. We don’t even have access tothese guys. I am representing 12 of them and I hadn’tspoken to my clients until just a few hours agobecause they were finally able to be in a locationwhere they could speak to their counsel. What happenedto the Sixth Amendment? What happened to dueprocess?," Akhlaghi said on Saturday.


  • Banafsheh Akhlaghi, Iranian-American attorney for detained immigrants