April 25, 2003
John Aschroft's round-up of Muslim immigrants will no doubt go down in the history books as the Ashcroft Raids, alongside the notorious Palmer Raids of the early 1920s.
Ashcroft has cast a vast net, only to catch a tiny few. He has forced roughly 130,000 Muslim male immigrants to register with the federal government. Of those, he has found only 11 suspected terrorists, according to The New York Times. That's less than .01 percent, if you don't have your calculator humming right now.
The selection of Muslim immigrants is discriminatory on its face.
The idea that the real terrorists would willingly turn themselves in is baffling.
And the program, which amounts to harassment, is alienating the Muslim community whose cooperation the Bush Administration needs to wage the war on terror.
On top of all that, the treatment these Muslim immigrants receive when they willingly report in is often appalling.
After waiting in line for hours, the immigrants are photographed, fingerprinted, and questioned, and then many of them are detained for no valid reason and herded into overcrowded cells for days at a time.
"Though he didn't charge me with any crime, he handcuffed me and took me downstairs," recalls Behrooz Arshadi, an Iranian immigrant who has lived in the United States for the past seventeen years. Arshadi's account, "Treated Like a Criminal: How the INS Stole Three Days of My Life," appears in the March issue of The Progressive. "They put me in what they called a 'tank.' . . . It was thirty-by-thirty, with eighty to ninety people inside. It was so crowded. The tank had two benches next to the wall and two open toilets. There wasn't space even to sit." After spending all night in the tank, Arshadi and the other immigrants with him were hauled around from one jail to another for the next three days.
Often, immigrants who go to Special Registration are denied their lawful right to legal representation. "Their interrogators don't want their lawyers around," as my colleague Anne-Marie Cusac notes in her article "No Lawyers Beyond This Point," which appears in the May issue of The Progressive. In Los Angeles, New York, Tampa, and other cities around the country, federal officials have told local immigration lawyers they cannot accompany their clients who are being questioned, Cusac reports.
Now Ashcroft has done another thing: He has just signed an order saying he can hold illegal immigrants indefinitely without bond. According to AP, Ashcroft issued this order on April 18 to overrule a decision made by an immigration judge and affirmed by the Board of Immigration Appeals.
With this order, Ashcroft becomes the unaccountable czar of immigrants.
Will no one in Congress rein this man in?