AILA Statement on the Tragic Events of September 11, 2001


The American Immigration Lawyers Association stands with our fellow Americans of all races, religions and national origins in expressing our shock and abhorrence at the horrific events of September 11, 2001.  Our hearts go out to the families most directly impacted by these hideous acts. Our support and deep gratitude goes out to those heroic individuals who continue to search for possible survivors.

President Bush said that this was an attack on freedom.  Our responsibility now is to remind our country and its citizens of the many rights we must preserve to maintain this freedom--freedom of movement, freedom from harassment and discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or race, freedom of speech and freedom from unjustified search and seizure. In times of crisis all of these freedoms are tested.  We must continue to cherish and preserve these freedoms, enshrined in our Constitution and Bill of Rights 214 years ago this very month.

While we understand the fear and anger that grips many of our fellow citizens, indeed our nation, we strongly and unequivocally condemn the misguided scapegoating, harassment and attacks on innocent Muslims and those of Mid-Eastern and South-Asian descent that have begun to happen in many places across the country.  We are mindful that many of the direct victims of the attacks in New York and Washington were immigrants themselves, those who loved this nation of immigrants as much as any who were born here.  Mayor Giuliani reminded us all last week that New York has always welcomed immigrants and that was one of his city's strengths.

As Congressman John Conyers stated last week, "Just as this horrendous act can destroy us from without, it can also destroy us from within.  Pearl Harbor led to internment camps of Japanese-Americans, and today there is a very real danger that this tragedy could result in prejudice, discrimination, and crimes of hate against Arab-Americans and others.  The lesson Oklahoma City taught us was the perpetrators of these acts of terror can be evil men of every race, nationality and religion as are the victims. We must ensure that these acts of terror do not slowly and subversively destroy the foundation of our democracy: a commitment to equal rights and equal protection."

We support the efforts of our nation's leaders to find and bring to justice the perpetrators of last week's horrific acts of terrorism.  We commend the U.S. Senate for its strong resolution, which states:  "The Senate declares that in the quest to identify, bring to justice, and punish the perpetrators and sponsors of the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, that the civil rights and civil liberties of all Americans, including Arab-Americans and American Muslims, should be protected; and condemns any acts of violence or discrimination against any Americans, including Arab-Americans and American Muslims."

In this time of crisis and anguish, we must remember that our strength and our future reside in our unity as a nation, the diversity from which we draw our strength, and the democratic principles on which our country is based.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 01091759.