ADC Condemns Plan to Focus Attention on Arab Men for Deportation
Washington, DC — The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) today condemned a new Justice Department policy that will place special attention on 6,000 of the 300,000 deportation “absconders” in the United States because they are young men from the Middle East. “Absconders” are those who have been ordered deported but who have disappeared and remain in the country. INS Commissioner James W. Ziglar has said that the Justice Department intends to enter the names of “absconders” into a national FBI crime database over the next year in an effort to find and deport them, and that it will enter the names of men of Middle Eastern origin first, focusing attention on this relatively small group.
ADC is opposed to all measures that codify racial, ethnic or religious discrimination in government policy, including immigration policy. ADC believes that the new program to focus deportation efforts on Middle Eastern men reflects a bias already expressed in a number of other policies developed since the Sept. 11 attacks. One clear example is the ongoing Justice Department plan to investigate some 5,000 young Arab men who entered the United States since Jan. 1, 2000. Young men from Arab and Muslim states who apply for visas to visit the United States also now have to wait an additional 20 days and answer a special questionnaire not required of any other persons. Hundreds of Arab men arrested since Sept. 11 remain in jail for minor visa violations which would not normally lead to incarceration. These elements combine to create the impression that the government feels that young Arab men are, by definition, suspicious, potentially dangerous and are of interest to the authorities.
ADC President Ziad Asali said, “the government has every right to try to deport persons who should not be in this country, but it is unconscionable to proceed with this effort based on a hierarchy of concern that is ethnically defined. Little by little we are systematizing in our policies the idea that young Arab men are a special class of persons who are to be treated differently than everyone else. This is extremely troubling, since, as a society, we are committed to non-discrimination and equal treatment under the law.” Asali added that “by creating policies that discriminate in this manner, the government is inadvertently fostering fear and suspicion of Arabs and Arab Americans, and undermining its own calls on Americans not to discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion. There is no basis to believe that these discriminatory policies will enhance the security of the American people, but they certainly do diminish our society’s values and our commitment to fairness and equality.”