AILA Comments on Inspector General’s Report Detailing Post 9/11 Detention Practices

American Immigration Lawyers Association


Contact: Judith Golub
(202) 216-2403

June 3, 2003       

The Department of Justice Must Uphold the Rule of Law, Not Ignore It

Washington, DC – A recently released, highly critical oversight report on the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) detention practices since September 11, 2001, underscores what immigration advocates have long charged:  the DOJ has confused immigrants with terrorists, and in the process has ignored our laws, invented its own, and wasted our precious resources.  The Inspector General’s (IG’s) 239-page report provides many details:  immigrants were held without being charged for long periods of time, denied bond, prevented from obtaining counsel, and physically and verbally abused.

“Instead of focusing our resources on terrorists, the DOJ’s detention policies have harmed innocent people,” said Jeanne Butterfield, Executive Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).  

The report highlights that the DOJ, in its quest to find terrorists, did not distinguish between persons who were part of an investigation and any other individuals encountered ‘incidentally.’  Thus, innocent persons were incarcerated for lengthy periods of time, with no access to counsel, to family members, or to representatives of their country of origin.  In fact, the IG’s report notes that, even when presented with information that detainees were not terrorists but, rather, immigrants who either were undocumented or had technical violations, the DOJ still denied them bond, keeping many locked up for months in federal prisons.

“America is a nation of laws for a reason:  to ensure that the passions of the moment do not overrun the rights and freedoms that are the bedrock of our nation.  This report’s findings reaffirm the need for the rule of law.  The IG’s report concludes that even taking into consideration the events of September 11th, the actions taken by the DOJ cannot be fully explained,” noted Butterfield.

“The DOJ needs to stand up, explain what it did, and take responsibility.  The agency’s actions threaten our fundamental Constitutional guarantees and protections that set our nation apart from others.  Our government must not trample on the Constitution and on those basic rights and protections that make American democracy so unique,” asserts Butterfield.

 “The disregard for the rule of law shown by DOJ leadership is reprehensible.  These are our nation’s top lawyers.  Their job is to ensure that the law is followed.  Yet the incarceration of individuals not implicated in the terrorist attacks directly violates the law.  AILA calls upon the Bush Administration to ensure that the agency entrusted with making sure the law is followed, itself follows the law,” concludes Butterfield.


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Founded in 1946, AILA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that provides its Members with continuing legal education, information, and professional services. AILA advocates before Congress and the Administration and provides liaison with the INS and other government agencies. AILA is an Affiliated Organization of the American Bar Association.

American Immigration Lawyers Association
918 F Street NW, Washington, DC, 20009
Phone (202) 216-2400; Fax (202) 783-7853

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 03060340.