LOS ANGELES - Today, a coalition of civil liberties and advocacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, Iranian American Lawyers Association, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Muslim Public Affairs Council, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Asian Pacific Legal Center, the Progressive Jewish Alliance, People For the American Way, and the Japanese American Citizen's League called on the Department of Justice to scrap the flawed and misguided INS Special Call-In Registration program or, at the very least, to extend the deadlines for registration so that the regulations in the program can be corrected.
The coalition's statement comes on the heels of the arrest and detention of hundreds of Arab and Iranian men who voluntarily reported to the INS to be fingerprinted, photographed and interviewed by the December 16 registration deadline for National's of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Syria. Deadlines are approaching for 15 additional countries that were recently added to the INS list.
'An immense number of law-abiding individuals have been unjustly detained and imprisoned in unacceptable and inhumane conditions as a result of this registration process,' said Kayhan Shakib, president of the Iranian American Lawyers Association. 'As other communities confront upcoming registration deadlines, we want them to be aware that the basic principles of fairness and equity are not being upheld.'
'The actions undertaken by the INS only serve to underscore the fact that some people in the Administration still don't understand the values we are all fighting to protect,' said Ramona Ripston, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California. 'This is the United States of America; we have to remember that many of these people came to this country fleeing political and religious persecution. What kind of message are we sending them?'
According to reports from family members and lawyers, some detainees have been held in facilities where there is not enough room to move, walk or sleep, and some have been denied food and necessary medicines. There are also concerns that even people believed to be in compliance with immigration regulations are being detained.
'This INS roundup is confused, ineffective and deceptive,' said Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). 'It is clear these measures erode our freedom, yield no enhanced security, and serve to damage America's global image.'
'Despite our collective desire for security, and despite our current fears, we must not allow ourselves to repeat the shameful excesses of the past,' said Ken Inouye, vice-president of public affairs for the Japanese American Citizen's League. 'Rounding up immigrants based on nothing but their religion or national origin shows only that we have not learned from ourmistakes and is inconsistent with the core values of our Constitution.'
'This flawed operation seems to be repeating the problems of other mass detentions by the federal government,' said People for the American Way California Deputy Director, Marcos Barron. 'It singles out people for different kinds of treatment based on their ethnicity and national background, and it is carried out with excessive secrecy, which prevents oversight and accountability.'