CANTON TOWNSHIP -- Immigrants and advocates for civil liberties in Metro Detroit Thursday criticized unsupervised domestic spying by the government, but they also said that national security remains an important priority in the wake of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The immigrants and advocates were responding to reports that the Bush Administration has, with the help of telecommunications companies, secretly collected telephone records from tens of millions of Americans -- most of whom are not suspected of crimes.
"It is not good, but one can understand," said Ihtesham Shadid, of Canton Township, an engineer and an immigrant from Pakistan. "We had a saying in Pakistan that basically is that if one is burned by a hot drink, one will be cautious even of a glass of cool lemonade. And I think that is what is happening, since 9/11. The government is trying to protect people.
"Sooner or later, the process of law will take its own course and these things will be checked with some checks and balances," Shadid said.
Some immigrants from Southeast Asia and the Middle East said they have long assumed they are disproportionately the targets of such surveillance because Al Qaeda, the group responsible for the attacks, has members from that part of the world.
"This is what we have been saying all along: We are always considered terrorists," said Al Hamzi, of Dearborn, a mechanic who is of Palestinian descent. "Security is important, yes, because we have enemies.
"But everyone, all of us, came to live in the U.S. for the freedom. If it is not free, why come? Those murderers, those terrorists, they should not make us do this to ourselves."
Advocates for civil liberties, including officials of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Council on American Islamic Relations criticized the spying because of it lacks the supervision required by law.