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2003-06-09

13,000 Arabs & Muslims in U.S. Face Deportation & John Ashcroft Attempts to Expand Patriot Act

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Constitutional law expert David Cole examines the links between the Palmer Raids of the 1920s and the Justice Department post-9/11

More than 13,000 Arab and Muslim men are facing deportation in what could result in the largest wave of deportations since the Sept. 11 attacks, this according to a report in the New York Times.

Those facing deportation are among the 82,000 men from Arab and Muslim countries who voluntarily registered with immigration officials over the six months.

The Pakistani community has been particularly hard hit. Bobby Khan of the Coney Island Avenue Project told the New York Times that between 40 to 50 percent of the 120,000 Pakistanis who lived in the area before Sept. 11 have since been detained, deported or have left the area.

Officials have acknowledged that almost all of the immigrants who face deportation have no ties to terrorism. So far the government has claimed only 11 of those who registered had links to terror groups.

News of the mass deportations comes just a week after the release of a Justice Department report that concluded authorities violated the civil rights of hundreds of immigrants detained since Sept. 11.

The review by the Office of the Inspector General found FBI officials made little attempt to distinguish between immigrants with possible ties to terrorism, and those who simply had the misfortune to be swept up in the investigation.

Without bail, detainees remained in jail for an average of nearly three months. They had to wait for weeks until they were allowed to make phone calls and find lawyers. Some were kept for months in cells illuminated 24 hours a day and were escorted in handcuffs, leg irons and waist chains.

At the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where over 80 people were held, the report found a "pattern of physical and verbal abuse."

While the report has been viewed as very critical, the situation may be worse. The study only looks at immigrants picked up between September 2001 and August 2002.

Newsday is reporting that a group of hundreds of detainees in Brooklyn and New Jersey suing the government plan to amend their suit based on the new report.

Attorneys for the detainees wrote the oversight report "provides a wealth of previously unknown detail that substantiates the plaintiffs’ allegations they were wrongfully designated as individuals 'of interest' to the government’s investigation of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and subjected to an array of unconstitutional policies."

Despite the critical report, Attorney General John Ashcroft is urging Congress to give the Justice Department more power.

Late last week he asked Congress to expand the USA Patriot Act to permit the government to hold more suspects indefinitely, and to extend the death penalty to more people accused of terrorist crimes.

  • David Cole, professor at Georgetown University Law Center. He is the author of the forthcoming book Enemy Aliens: Double Standards and Constitutional Freedoms in the War on Terrorism.

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