"We are concerned that the innocent men who have been targeted for questioning are unaware of their constitutional rights or the possible adverse consequences of agreeing to be questioned," said Michael J. Steinberg, legal director of the ACLU of Michigan. "The FBI agents will not just be asking questions about terrorism."
The hotline is a project of the ACLU, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Arabic Community Center for Economic and Social Service (ACCESS) and the National Lawyers Guild.
The hotline is established for the more than 700 Middle Eastern men in Michigan who have been targeted for questioning by the FBI. The purpose of the hotline is to inform the men about their constitutional rights, the questions that the FBI will ask, the option to decline an interview and the option to bring an attorney to an interview.
Callers will be informed about the possibility of being detained or deported if, for example, the FBI determines that the individual has lied in the interview or has overstayed his visa. None of the advice given on the hotline will encourage non-cooperation with proper law enforcement investigations. Callers will be advised to be careful but truthful in their answers.
Even though these men are not suspects in the terrorist investigation, according to Justice Department guidelines they will be asked personal questions about their political beliefs and to provide telephone numbers of family and friends. If an agent discovers an immigration violation during questioning, the person could be detained without bond, according to Steinberg.
The statewide hotline number is 313-578-6806. An attorney will be available to field calls on weekdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Individuals can leave a call-back number and expect that their call will be returned. Expanded hours are scheduled for next week.
In a related development, the Washtenaw County Branch of the ACLU has offered free legal assistance to the 80 Middle Eastern men in Washtenaw County whom the FBI seeks to interview. The Washtenaw ACLU has also agreed to provide lawyers to accompany individuals at an interview should they agree to be interviewed. The Washtenaw County hotline number is 734-769-0753.
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