Government’s Crackdown on Immigrants Post 9/11 Creates Climate of Fear, Not Security

American Immigration Lawyers Association

Contact: Julia Hendrix
(202) 216-2404

November 18, 2003

Government’s Crackdown on Immigrants Post 9/11 Creates Climate of Fear, Not Security

In the aftermath of September 11th, the U.S. government has adopted policies that target individuals for investigation, detention, and removal based on their religion or ethnicity rather than on individualized suspicion of criminal conduct.  These measures, which fail to enhance our security, have infringed on the civil liberties of immigrants and have created a climate of fear and distrust in immigrant communities around the country.  Today the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing ("America After 9/11: Freedom Preserved or Freedom Lost?”) that sought to address these pressing issues.

“Many of the Bush Administration’s actions since September 11 call into question whether we are still a nation that values fundamental freedoms such as the right to counsel and the right to a public hearing.  We must implement initiatives that actually enhance our security.  However, the U.S. government has instilled fear among the very groups of people that are best positioned to help identify those who mean to do us harm.  Programs that profile based on ethnicity represent false solutions to real problems and do not make us safer,” said Palma Yanni, President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). 

Earlier this year, the Department of Justice’s own watchdog, the Office of the Inspector General, severely rebuked the Bush administration’s detention policies stating that there were “significant problems” and questions of “legality” regarding the post-9/11 detention of immigrants.  Many immigrants detained in the post-9/11 sweep were denied access to attorneys and family members, and were held without being charged for months.  And, in a number of cases, they were physically and mentally abused by government guards.  Today’s hearing aired some of these concerns, but there was little discussion of a lasting solution to prevent these abuses from occurring again.

Another initiative addressed at the Senate hearing today was the Special Registration program. Under this program, more than 80,000 immigrant men in the U.S. have been photographed and fingerprinted. Of that group, more than 13,000 were targeted for deportation when they showed up to comply with the law. Not a single terrorist prosecution has resulted from this program, but hundreds of fathers, sons, grandfathers, and uncles of U.S. citizens and legal residents were questioned, arrested, and detained.

“America is a nation of immigrants, but our immigrant communities now feel besieged as a result of the continued assault on fundamental civil liberties.  America is not more secure when the very freedoms that we seek to defend are withheld from those who are most vulnerable,” concluded Yanni.   

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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 Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies. AILA is an Affiliated Organization of the American Bar Association.

American Immigration Lawyers Association
918 F Street NW, Washington, DC, 20004-1400
Phone (202) 216-2400; Fax (202) 783-7853


Cite as AILA Doc. No. 03111940.