AN INDIVIDUAL’S CITIZENSHIP STATUS REVEALS NOTHING ABOUT HIS INVOLVEMENT WITH TERRORISM. AND PROFILING IS A FLAWED LAW-ENFORCEMENT TACTIC, SQUANDERING LIMITED RESOURCES ON FACTORS THAT DO NOT PREDICT WRONGDOING. IT ALSO ENGENDERS HOSTILITY IN THE VERY IMMIGRANT COMMUNITIES FROM WHICH LAW-ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES ARE TRYING TO RECRUIT AGENTS, TRANSLATORS AND INFORMANTS. them, without any legitimate reason to do so. Because the ACLU didn’t know who they were, if they had lawyers or where they were being held, its Immigrants’ Rights Project was greatly hampered in its ability to offer direct assistance. So ACLU lawyers drafted a model petition of habeas corpus that could be used by families and friends to get detainees out. Such petitions ask a court to direct the government to “show cause” (provide the reason) for the person’s detention. In the first such cases brought by the ACLU and others, the government continued to defy the courts, usually deporting the detainee instead of providing the requested information. “It’s not the ideal outcome in every case,” Lee Gelernt, an ACLU lawyer, said, “but sometimes it’s the best an individual can hope for — freeing him from the limbo of indefinite
imprisonment, and enabling him to get on with his life.”
Such interventions might not have been so sorely needed if the government had given more than lip service to the fundamental rights of all people residing in the U.S., including immigrants. Non-citizenship is not a reliable proxy for suspicion. At least one al Qaeda member convicted in the terror attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa was an American; and three other U.S. citizens — John Walker Lindh, Abdullah Al Mujahir (also known as Jose´ Padilla) and the Louisiana-born Yasser Esam Hamdi — are now in custody on charges of collaborating with al Qaeda.
An individual’s citizenship status reveals nothing about his involvement with terrorism. And profiling is a flawed law- enforcement tactic, squandering limited resources on factors that do not predict wrongdoing. It also engenders hostility in the very immigrant communities from which law-enforcement agencies are trying to recruit agents, translators and informants.