HOW THE GOVERNMENT’S ANTI-TERRORISM TACTICS THREATEN OUR WAY OF LIFE
THE TARGETING OF IMMIGRANTS
In the hours following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, bullets were fired at an Islamic center in Irving, Texas; windows were broken in a Muslim student center at Wayne State University in Detroit; and bricks were thrown through the windows of an Islamic bookstore in Alexandria, Va.
President Bush and key officials moved quickly to condemn these and other attacks against Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, Sikh Americans and Asian Americans. By early December, Attorney General Ashcroft said, the Justice Department had investigated more than 250 retaliatory attacks or threats.
But the administration undercut its stated support for immigrants by aggressively engaging in or tolerating actions against certain groups on the basis of racial profiles. Young Muslim, South Asian and Arab men were tracked, interrogated and rounded up on 200 college campuses and in dozens of cities — often for no other reason than their religious backgrounds, countries of origin or Muslim surnames. Many were jailed on minor immigration charges that had not been used to detain members of other groups. Passengers from Middle Eastern countries were removed from flights just because pilots or passengers said the presence of such passengers made them
“uncomfortable.” A Muslim woman was subjected to a humiliating body search after refusing to remove her headscarf at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. Two Somali shop owners in Seattle lost more than $300,000 in assets after Treasury agents raided their businesses and seized their inventories in a misguided search for wire transfers to terrorists.
And the government continued to focus suspicion on immigrants: It announced plans to fingerprint visitors from specific countries, banned the employment of noncitizens as airline screeners, and urged ordinary citizens to spy on their neighbors — implying that noncitizens pose a threat to Americans that citizens do not.
If the government’s early expressions of support for immigrant communities were reassuring, its subsequent actions were not. How could the government be expected to protect vulnerable groups, when some of the worst offenses were perpetrated or condoned by the government itself?
The ACLU fights the scapegoating of immigrants
The ACLU moved quickly to keep immigrants from becoming innocent targets of investigation, with public education materials, legislative advocacy, lawsuits and offers of assistance to those caught up in the Justice Department’s dragnet:
The ACLU published a “Know Your Rights” pamphlet in seven languages, including Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi, on “what to do if you’re stopped by the police, the FBI, the INS or