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…
A broad coalition of civil rights groups will hold a rally on January 19 at 12:00 to 2:30 p.m., at the Washington DC Convention Center to draw attention to the damage done to civil liberties protections in the wake of new anti-terrorism legislation.
The coalition, including the CAIR, ACLU, National Action Network, MPAC, Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, AMC, People for the American Way, AAI, Black Leadership Forum, Blacks in Government, and other organizations will rally to remind Americans of the spirit of Martin Luther King.
"The civil rights gains of the 60s and 70s took place in the context of immense social change and a foreign war," said Jason Erb, Director of Governmental Affairs. "Dr. King recognized that civil rights and national
security are not contradictory, but complimentary," said Erb.
CONTACT: Jason C. Erb, 202-488-8787, [email protected]
Rep. John Conyers, Jr, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, issued the following statement in response to reports that the Justice Department will focus on Middle Easterners who have not complied with
"We must have a rational law enforcement policy to ensure that people who are issued deportation orders actually leave the country. The fact that there are over 300,000 people in the United States who have ignored deportation orders is indicative of INS's lack of resources to enforce our immigration laws. However, it is un-American to single out individuals for more aggressive law enforcement scrutiny on the basis of race, sex or national origin without evidence of criminal behavior.
A policy that focuses on finding people based on their national origin is short sighted as it will fail to meet its desired result - to protect America from terrorism. The Justice Department should not be using racial
profiling; rather it should treat people in similar circumstances equally. This decision by the Justice Department is just one more in a long list of decisions that use race or ethnicity as a determinative factor
to guide law enforcement rather than focusing on specific evidence of criminal behavior."