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January 2003 • Vol 3, No. 1 •

Ethnic Cleansing by the INS

by Art LeClair

Hundreds of Middle Eastern nationals were handcuffed and put behind bars throughout Southern California in December for their willing cooperation with an Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) registration program.

Under the direction of Attorney General John Ashcroft and using the draconian USA PATRIOT ACT, the INS decreed that all males over the age of 16 from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria had to register with the agency by mid-December or face automatic deportation. Many thousands of people are affected including students, people with long-term travel visas, family members and many others.

The new policy requires those registering to provide the government with detailed personal information about themselves and their families in the US as well as relatives in their native lands. Furthermore, they must submit to fingerprinting as well as being photographed by the feds.

An estimated 1000 to 2500 individuals who are known to have participated in the “registration,” failed to return home and were assumed to be incarcerated. The arrests precipitated angry demonstrations by several thousand Iranian nationals and their supporters outside a Los Angeles INS office, on Dec. 18.

This process, which INS officials state is “designed to catch terrorists,” is scheduled to be expanded the 10th of this month, to include an additional 12 Middle Eastern and North African nations—plus North Korea, also part of “The Axis of Evil.”

These same officials refused to release any figures on the number of people who registered or any information on those who were detained.

What will happen this January 10?

One can only imagine what impact these events will have on many of those thousands scheduled, nay, required to register by January 10. Surely, some of them will be reluctant to trust the INS not to do the same thing to them. Perhaps that is, at least in part, the desired effect. Any of those who fail to appear and register could then be spirited before an immigration judge and deported. Nice touch Uncle Sam! A near perfect Catch-22.

Sabiha Khan of the Southern California chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations stated: “Terrorists most likely wouldn’t come to the INS to register. It really is a bad way to go about it. They (the detainees) are being treated like criminals and that really goes against American ideals of fairness, and justice and democracy.”

The head of the Southern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), compared these arrests to the internment of Japanese-Americans into concentration camps during World War II.

“I think it is shocking what is happening. It is reminiscent of what happened in the past with the internment of Japanese-Americans. We are getting a lot of telephone calls from people. We are hearing that people went down wanting to cooperate and then they were detained,” said Ramona Ripson, the ACLU’s executive director.

Post-September 11 hysteria

Clearly, what is taking place in Southern California, and elsewhere, is the overtly racist policies of a government which sits on a foundation of discrimination and oppression. The scapegoating of males of Middle Eastern origin as “terrorists” is typical of the ruling class of the United States, not all that far removed from its powdered wigged, slave trading heritage.

Those still being detained are being held on the flimsiest of so-called “visa irregularities.” Small wonder. Since early last summer, thousands of students, scientists, academics and companions from all points of the compass, have been delayed, or had to cancel trips to the United States because of expanded security checks and other snags resulting from the post 9/11 hysteria.

State Department spokespersons have complained that many of the delays are being caused by the redundancy of security clearances required by numerous law enforcement, intelligence and other federal agencies. Since 9/11 the waiting period for most visa’s has gone from 30 days, on average, to between four and six months.

The frustration level for those waiting for their applications to be processed is rapidly rising. Kip Thome, a physics professor from the California Institute of Technology complained; “You don’t get any answers at all. It’s like dealing with a black hole.”

His anger was fueled by the fact that the person he was waiting for, a Russian colleague named Vladimir Braginsky, arrived more than three months late to serve as an advisor on a US government funded project to detect and monitor a newly discovered type of gravitational radiation.

“Dealing with the Russian bureaucracy during the cold war was a lot easier than dealing with this,” Dr. Thome said.

New England activists targeted by INS/FBI terrorists.

While the mass detentions taking place in California appear, at least as of the writing of this article, to be a “local phenomena,” it is premature to think the campaign won’t be spread by the federal government.

In New England, leading Palestinian activists have been the selective targets of INS/FBI goon squads for months. On December 23, Abdelkader Amir Ayed, an Algerian living in the Boston area, became the latest victim of John Ashcroft’s reign of terror.

Early that morning, nearly 20 federal agents showed up at his Everett, MA home and interrogated his roommates while he was at work. None of the agents identified which agencies they worked for, nor did they present a search or arrest warrant at any time. They did, however, smash down the door to his bedroom to see if he was hiding inside.

When Abdelkader returned home from work, he was immediately arrested on the sidewalk in front of his house. The agents still refused to identify the agency they were assigned to, but during the arrest, he heard several of them refer to the INS.

Upon his arrest, Abdelkader informed the agents that he wanted to speak to his attorney but was told by one agent that a “lawyer wouldn’t do him much good at this point.” When the agents said that they wanted to search his automobile, Abdelkader appropriately refused to consent to the search. His captors then advised him that things might go badly for him if he didn’t improve his attitude.

Abdelkader was asked numerous questions that had nothing to do with his immigrant status, such as was he an extremist, or did he know any extremists? Next they asked him how he felt about the United States? Isn’t it time the agents were asked similar questions? For example: What is the name of the extremist who heads up the agency you work for?

Abdelkader Amir Ayed, who is accused of being late in filing for a visa extension, is currently being held without a date for a hearing on that allegation, at the Bristol County House of Correction, in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts. This is the same INS lockup in which Jaoudat Abouazza had been held.

Friends and activists are concerned about Abdelkader’s health since he has a heart condition and must follow a careful diet as well as take prescribed medications to help control the condition. Since his arrest, he has been experiencing serious health problems due to the poor quality and selection of food. The prison medical staff are also forcing him to take standardized doses of medication, rather than allowing him to adjust them, based on his worsening condition. Brother Abdelkader also needs to see his cardiologist.

In a similar case, Mr. Abouazza was arrested on May 30, 2002, for “suspicion of terrorism.” The facts used by federal agents to detain him were two; he is Palestinian and he was in possession of leaflets for an upcoming political event. He faced torturous physical and mental abuse and spent 41 days in jail. He was released after his case stirred an international protest.

Detained Palestinian Activist Released on Bond.

On November 21, Palestinian human rights activist Amer Jubran was released on bond from the custody of the INS after he was held illegally for 17 days in a Cranston, Rhode Island prison. At the time of his release, Jubran blasted the federal government and its racist anti-Arab policies: “All of this is part and parcel of the roundup of Arabs and the attempt to chill all voices of dissent. Nothing new happened here,” Jubran stated. “But this effort to silence the voices of those of us seeking justice for Palestine will not succeed.”

He concluded with, “There are hundreds of Amer Jubrans—men and women, white and black, Jews and Muslims—who will continue to come forward until Palestine is free.”

Judge Okays Abdelkader Amir Ayed’s Release

This reporter just received a phone call from a member of the Amer Jubran Defense Committee, which is helping to organize the defense of Abdelkader Amir Ayed, saying that a federal judge had approved his release on $2500 bond effective immediately.

Brother Ayed’s attorney for the hearing, which took place on January 6, in Boston, was provided by a local mosque. He has also received the support of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and committee members are in contact with representatives of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), whose National Immigration Project is based in Boston.

Emergency Protest at Boston INS Offices

As part of its ongoing campaign to expose the inhumane treatment of Arabs and Muslims by the INS and to help with the educational process that is necessary in the defense of fundamental civil liberties, the New England Committee to Defend Palestine (NECDP) and the Amer Jubran Defense Committee (AJDC) called an emergency picket line for January 9 in front of the JFK Federal Office Building in Boston, which houses the regional INS offices.

The next INS mandated deadline for the “special registration requirements,” is January 10, and it targets immigrant males from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

According to the NECDP and AJDC, this registration program is itself another form of racial and religious persecution. “Together with the mass arrests, it is a major assault on fundamental human rights.”

So long as this “special program,” or any other form of ethnic profiling and persecution continues, these organizations will also continue to hold educational and protest events in response.

The NECDP and the AJDC meet on alternating Sunday evenings and supporters are welcome.

For further information on the New England Committee to Defend Palestine and the Amer Jubran Defense Committee visit www.OnePalestine.org





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