More than five years removed from the 9/11 terror attacks-the greatest tragedy to befall our nation in modern history-our country has learned certain lessons regarding our role in the global community. But we also have more to learn about treatment of our own citizens-lessons that will hopefully lead us to a stronger, safer and more vibrant society for people of all races, faiths and cultures who are all treated equally under the law.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the most disturbing legal trend in America has been the growing disparity in how American Muslims, Arabs and South Asians have been treated under the law.

For example, in the months immediately after 9/11, Attorney General John Ashcroft, using his powers under section 412 of the now infamous USA PATRIOT Act, rounded up and imprisoned well over 1,200 Muslim and Arab men based solely on pretextual immigration violations. The most disturbing fact about these mass roundups was the fact that the Justice Department refused to disclose the detainees’ identities, give them access to lawyers or allow them to have contact with their families. The inspector general conceded in his official report that they stopped counting the detainees after 1,200 because the “statistics became too confusing.”

Georgetown University law professor and civil liberties expert David Cole has said that, “Thousands were detained in this blind search for terrorists without any real evidence of terrorism, and ultimately without netting virtually any terrorists of any kind.”

In June 2002, Ashcroft instituted the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, more commonly referred to as NSEERS. One of the most ambiguous and publicly debated aspects of NSEERS was known as “Special Registration.” Special Registration required all male nationals over the age of 14 from 25 countries to report to the government to be registered and fingerprinted. With the sole exception of North Korea, every single one of the 25 countries on the Special Registration bulletin was Muslim or Arab. The ACLU denounced the plan as “a thinly veiled effort to trigger massive and discriminatory deportations of certain immigrants.”

In one year alone, the Special Registration program registered 83,310 foreign nationals, placing 13,740 into deportation proceedings.


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