Justice Department officials said today that a new effort to find and deport people who have fled to avoid previous deportation orders would begin with tracking several thousand men from Muslim and Middle Eastern
countries that have Al Qaeda presences.
The officials said although the men from Muslim and Middle Eastern countries constituted a small fraction of those who have ignored deportation orders, they would be the initial focus of efforts to locate evaders and expel them…
…Some civil liberties and Arab American advocacy groups questioned the fairness of that policy. A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, Ibrahim Hooper, said the policy was greatly dismaying.
"If you add in this new policy," Mr. Hooper said in an interview, "with several others announced by this administration like their plans to question 5,000 Muslim men who are here legally, the effect is to create a
perception in the Muslim and Arab American community that there is a two-tier legal system, one for the majority and another for the people who are Muslim or Arab American.
"Anybody who breaks the law and ignores a deportation order deserves to be arrested. But to single people out solely on their religion and ethnicity goes against longstanding values of equal protection of the law."
Before Sept. 11, the merest hint of using profiles to screen for potential wrongdoers was widely regarded as a violation of some elementary American value. But the debate has become more complex…
Fearing the impact of Justice officials' sweeping new powers, national civil rights groups and Arab and Muslim organizations have formed a coalition to defend against practices they say violate people's civil liberties.
The coalition, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union, the Arab American Institute and the Black Leadership Forum, is calling for more congressional oversight, including hearings. It also is demanding that
Justice Department officials release more information about the 500 remaining detainees held for immigration violations and stop the questioning of 5,000 young male foreigners, most of whom are from Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries. The coalition will kick off its campaign with a rally Jan. 19 in Washington in commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.
"There's a recognition among all these folks that we're all in the same boat and we can't sit back while one group gets singled out and think it's not going to happen to another," said Jason Erb, director of Governmental affairs for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is also part of the coalition.
The groups have raised concerns about legislation that expands Justice Department powers, including the authority to detain indefinitely noncitizens suspected of terrorism and to broaden wiretap surveillance…