the Customs Service.” Sparked by reports that people under investigation had been detained and impeded in their ability to contact lawyers and family members, the pamphlet was widely disseminated after the Justice Department announced plans to interview thousands of men from Middle Eastern countries. It contains basic information for citizens and noncitizens alike, none of it meant to stop people from cooperating with proper investigations.
The ACLU opposed government attempts to involve local police departments in its “dragnet” of 5,000 immigrants. Police should not be involved in immigration, or be asked to use ethnic and racial origin as the basis for suspicion, according to the ACLU and a growing number of police chiefs, who recognized that erosion of police-community relations would reduce their ability to solve crimes. Several local police forces in California, Michigan, Oregon and Texas, as well as the California Police Chiefs Association refused to participate in such compromising missions, and other cities have statutes that bar them from doing so.
The ACLU filed five civil-rights lawsuits against four airlines that had removed passengers from flights based on the prejudices of airline employees and passengers alone. The ACLU joined lawyers for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in lawsuits filed on June 4, 2002, accusing American, Continental, Northwest and United Airlines of blatant discrimination in ejecting five men for reasons unrelated to safety. All five were removed after passengers or flight crews said
The ACLU went to court to challenge a new federal law requiring airport screeners to be U.S. citizens. The law is unconstitutional and discriminatory, according to the lawsuit by the ACLU, the Service Employees International Union and nine screeners from two California airports. “Taking qualified, experienced screeners off the job because of their citizenship status won’t make anyone safer,” Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, said. And replacing them with people who have no on-the-job training or experience opens the door to unnecessary security risks at airports. Screeners them- selves welcome higher security standards, improved background checks and more rigorous employment qualifications, but see no need to bar legal immigrants from working as airport screeners. The restriction is illogical, ACLU lawyers pointed out, because no such requirement exists for they “felt uncomfortable” with them on board. Two of the five are of Arab descent, four are U.S. citizens and the fifth is a per- manent legal resident. (The Department of Transportation had warned major airlines as early as Sept. 21, 2001, and again in October not to discriminate against passengers on the basis of race, color or national or ethnic origin — to little apparent effect. The DOT itself documented 84 complaints of discrimination against air carriers in the first three months of 2002.) 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?