Stories about Immigrant Detentions

The war on terrorism has turned into a war on immigrants. Since the tragic attack of 9/11, FBI and local police agents have used immigration laws to arrest hundreds of immigrants and keep them in secret custody. By early November 2001, 1,147 people were held according to the Justice Department. At that point the Department declared it would no longer release a tally of detainees and refused to provide a public accounting of the prisoners. 

In an internal memo made public in 2002, the Department explicitly adopted a policy of selective immigration enforcement: immigrants from certain countries who have over-stayed their visas are now also targeted for speedy deportation based on their national origins.

The followings are some cases where immigrants and refugees have suffered from arbitrary, long detentions:

  • The September 11 detainees - In the 11 months after the 9/11 attacks, 762 aliens were preventively detained for FBI terrorism investigation. Many of them were arrested indiscriminately and haphazardly.        
  • Shakir Baloch - a Pakistan-born Canadian citizen was brutally beaten up during his detention, and eventually deported back to Canada with all his identification papers confiscated. Read the presentation he made in a Criminal Justice Group in Geneva in April 2003.   
  • Nadin Hamoui - Nadin and her mother Ismail were detained for nine months, and her father is still in custody. They were initially arrested for immigration violations.                  
  • Wildia, a 24-year-old Haitian woman, among about 200 other Haitians asylum seekers, has been detained for more than half a year without being charged.

While the Attorney General has defended the large-scale roundup of young Arab and South Asian men on national security grounds, even former FBI officials have questioned the effectiveness of a strategy so dependent on national origin profiling. In reality, this practice of preventive detention has failed to demonstrate that the majority of those ensnared in the net were criminals, mush less terrorists.

For more information on immigrant detentions and other issues, please visit the ACLU's Keep America Safe and Free Campaign.  Please become a member of the ACLU and visit the Action Center to get active.  Freedom cannot defend itself.

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  • Eggen, "Deportee Sweep Will Start with Mideast Focus," Washington Post, February 8, 2002.
  • McGee, "Ex-FBI Officials Criticize Tactics On Terrorism," Washington Post, Novermber 28, 2001.

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