Asylum detention policy needs clarification say Muslims
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today asked the Department of Homeland Security to clarify a government policy revealed this morning that would seem to call for the indefinite detention of legal asylum seekers in the United States.
The policy is part of “Liberty Shield,” a national plan announced by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and designed to “increase protections for America’s citizens and infrastructure.” The part of Liberty Shield relating to asylum seekers states:
“Asylum applicants from nations where al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda sympathizers, and other terrorist groups are known to have operated will be detained for the duration of their processing period. This reasonable and prudent temporary action allows authorities to maintain contact with asylum seekers while we determine the validity of their claim. DHS and the Department of State will coordinate exceptions to this policy.”
“This policy announcement raises several important legal and moral questions. Will all asylum seekers who are in this country legally now be detained indefinitely? Will their families, including children, be detained as well? Will only Muslim and Arab asylum seekers be detained? If this policy only applies to new asylum applicants, will it result in the elimination of asylum requests from Muslim countries? These are questions that must be answered before the policy can be implemented without violating long-standing American values of equal justice and openness to those fleeing oppression,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.
Awad said the policy is eerily similar to Australia’s “Pacific Solution” program, which relegated seaborne asylum seekers to impoverished Pacific islands while their claims were processed. That policy has been widely condemned by human rights groups.
CAIR is America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has 16 regional offices nationwide and in Canada. Since its founding in 1994, CAIR has defended the civil and religious rights of all Americans.