ADC Presses CBP on Census Data
Washington, DC, Aug. 13— Today, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and the Arab American Institute (AAI) held a meeting with Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Robert Bonner and Daniel Sutherland, Director of the Office of Civil Right and Civil Liberties at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regarding the disclosure of detailed information about the Arab-American community.
The US Census Bureau provided this information to the United States Customs Service in 2002, and then to CBP at DHS in 2003. The information included specific data on the Arab-American population in the United States, broken down by population size (1,000 or more Arab Americans) as well as by zip code. Additionally, the data was further delineated by the specific ancestry or national-origin of the Arab Americans.
Commissioner Bonner said he was “mortified by press accounts and the implications of the request.” He added that higher-level officials within the agency, including CBP Commissioner Bonner and Mr. Sutherland, were initially unaware of the information sharing and that the information was never used, shared, or retained. He also said that CBP will be enacting policy changes to reduce the likelihood of this reoccurring. Commissioner Bonner has committed to issuing a statement addressing the concerns ADC and AAI raised in the meeting.
ADC President Mary Rose Oakar said, “ADC thanks Commissioner Bonner and Mr. Sutherland for their personal attention to this matter. We will continue to raise the community’s concerns about this troubling situation.”
A joint ADC and AAI statement, endorsed by 24 civil liberties, faith based, and human rights groups and 17 ADC chapters, from around the country was presented at the meeting. The statement calls on DHS to launch an investigation and if necessary, that Congress holds hearings on this sensitive matter.
TEXT OF JOINT STATEMENT
We, the undersigned civil liberties, faith-based, civic and human rights organizations, express grave concern regarding the issuance of tabulations on the Arab-American population, prepared by the Census Bureau to the United States Customs Service in 2002 and, later, the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection at the Department of Homeland Security in 2003.
The information, provided by the Census Bureau to Customs includes specific data on the Arab American population in the United States, broken down by population size (1000 or more Arab Americans) as well as by zip code. Troublingly, the data are further delineated by the specific ancestry or national-origin of the Arab Americans.
These actions are a violation of the public’s trust in the census bureau, and a troubling reminder of one of our nation’s darkest days when the sharing of similar information resulted in the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
The explanation so far provided by the Department of Homeland Security, stating that the information was used only to create language-specific signage for outbound airport operations, does not justify the need for any data on where Arab Americans live, nor does it justify where they live by zip code. Furthermore, there is no rational relationship between of the national origin of Arab Americans (i.e. Egyptian, Lebanese, Iraqi, Syrian, Palestinian, Jordanian, etc.) and Arabic signage at airports. Moreover, most (98%) of Arab Americans speak and read English fluently. Hence the rational for the data requirements is inconsistent with reality.
Additionally, while stating otherwise, the Department of Homeland Security and the Census Bureau have failed to provide proof that similar information related to other ethnicities was requested and/or obtained for similar language-specific signage in languages other than Arabic during the same period.
In conclusion, this troubling issue calls for an immediate and clear explanation from the Department of Homeland Security, a proper documented investigation, and, if necessary, hearings by the United States Congress.
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Arab American Institute (AAI)
Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS)
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)
Campus Anti-War Network
Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
Coalition De Derechos Humanos – Alianza Indigena Sin Fronteras
Congress of Arab American Organizations-Michigan (CAAO-MI)
Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC)
International Socialist Organization
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR)
Lebanese American Heritage Club (LAHC)
LaRaza Centro Legal (LRCL)
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS)
Migration Policy and Resource Center – Urban and Environmental Policy
Institute (Occidental College)
National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund
National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium (NAPALC)
National Immigration Forum
National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild
National Network of Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR).
South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow (SAALT)
United American Lebanese Federation (UALF)
ADC Chapters (expressly endorsing statement):
ADC-Greater Detroit Chapter
ADC-Greater Kalamazoo Chapter
ADC-Los Angeles/Orange County Chapter
ADC-New Jersey Chapter
ADC-New Orleans Chapter
ADC-New York Chapter
ADC-San Diego Chapter
ADC-San Francisco Chapter
ADC-Washington, DC Area Chapter