June 4, 2003

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Media@dcaclu.org

WASHINGTON - Following on the heels of the release of an internal Justice Department report critical of the agency's post-9/11 preventive detentions, several former detainees and relatives of detainees convened on Capitol Hill today for a forum calling for greater national awareness of the dangers of selective law enforcement. 

"This week's Inspector General report makes clear that the war on terror quickly turned into a war on immigrants," said Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, who spoke to the forum about the Administration's activities.

"One of the hallmarks of our democracy is our commitment to due process and fairness," Romero said. "Many of the people here today were treated like the enemy, even though they had no connection to terrorism."

The forum featured people held under practically every type of unwarranted detention since September 11, including the INS special registration immigrant tracking program and the non-citizen round-ups during the 9/11 investigation. It also included several members of Congress, who took the opportunity to ask detainees about their personal stories. Lawmakers scheduled to attend include Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), Sen. John Corzine (D-NJ), U.S. Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA).

Today's event comes just two days after the Department of Justice's own internal watchdog released a report, which had been pending for close to a year, detailing the systematic abuse of detainees held pursuant to the 9/11 investigation, many of whom languished in prison for months at a time but had no connection whatsoever to the events of September 11. Other findings in the Inspector General report include the possible destruction of evidence, an actual "no bond" policy that actively opposed the release of the detainees and a concerted policy drift that attempted to prevent those being held from seeing lawyers.

For both the 9/11 detainees and for other immigrants rounded-up since the attacks, it is highly likely that many of the detentions were driven, not by evidence of criminal activity or intent, but by selective law enforcement based on skin color, religion or national origin. In the case of the 9/11 detentions - held as part of a program called PENTTBOM - the activity of the Department of Justice looked uncomfortably like preventive detention, the ACLU said.

One of the speakers today was Patricia David, wife of Gerald David, a Pakistani Christian who, before he could adjust his immigration status to reflect his marriage, was taken from work by immigration officials in March 2002 and summarily deported to an area of Pakistan 1000 miles from his nearest relatives. Also featured was a surviving Japanese-American World War II internee who drew parallels between her experiences and the plight of undeserved detainees in the post-9/11 era.

Anthony Romero's statement can be found at:
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