Over the last two years since September 11th, ADC has worked tirelessly to protect the civil rights of Arab- and Muslim-Americans and immigrants particularly in light of recent U.S. government policies and directives. The number of discrimination cases has quadrupled since 9/11 – be it at the airports, housing, immigration or employment. ADC’s Legal team has spearheaded numerous initiatives related to civil and immigration rights.
ADC’s Legal Team handled an upsurge of telephone queries about this deeply flawed and discriminatory policy, and also organized and participated in dozens of community education forums, information sessions and panel discussions throughout the country.
ADC leads sensitivity-training programs for local law enforcement agencies and worked with the Federal agencies and other national civil rights organizations to ensure that our concerns are heard at the national level. ADC will work with the Border & Transportation Security Administration under the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that visitors – whether tourists, those coming for medical treatment, businesspeople, or students are treated with dignity and their civil rights are not abused.
ADC continues to assist registrants, including international students, who were unlawfully arrested and detained, file requests to the Department of Justice for fair and just compensation for unlawful arrest and false imprisonment. We challenged the unlawful arrest of large numbers of people, especially in Los Angeles, as they voluntarily complied with the “Special Call-in Registration” requirements.
ADC’s Legal team continuously receives calls from individuals requesting assistance on numerous issues or questions they may have related to their stay in the United States. We also conduct presentations at universities, working with international student advisors to have them understand the process for students, particularly around special registration.
ADC is a complete resource point on any issues concerning immigration law and civil and human rights.
As recent crisis facing our country have made painfully clear, the affected communities are in dire need of civil rights and immigration attorneys to provide free legal services and guidance to those in need. ADC is constantly challenged and inundated with requests for assistance throughout the United States.
ADC’s Legal Services Program will be dedicated to responding to the Arab-American community’s legal needs relating to such issues as Special Registration, community education and Know Your Rights awareness activities (especially in areas of public accommodation and employment).
Additionally, ADC’s attorneys: spearhead ADC’s legal advocacy around the country, address congressional testimonies, and work with like-minded partners; supervise ‘Know Your Rights’ sessions for community leaders; respond to day-to-day inquires about immigration-related concerns and other civil rights issues and make legal referrals where necessary; represent ADC in panel discussions and in the media to raise awareness in the general public on legal issues of concern; assist community members who are victims of hate crimes, employment discrimination, police misconduct and other civil rights abuses to file the necessary complaints or take appropriate action to defend their rights.
Along with a few of our sister organizations, ADC is a founding member of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Rights Working Group. The purpose of this coalition is to create a system of checks and balances, and to ensure that proper programs and outreach are defined as DHS is being formed. Our experiences have shown that having a Civil Rights Unit with defined and public processes on filing complaints within government agencies is essential in ensuring that our government is held accountable. This project includes developing bilingual posters on how to file a complaint with DHS and submitting advertisements to local community newspapers to publicize the process.
The Rights Working Group also recently created a list of affirmative legislative proposals as part of the checks and balance system. The intention of the list is to propose legislative amendments to various laws passed and policies enacted. ADC, along with several like-minded organizations, is specifically working on amending policies regarding mandatory detention based on national origin, indefinite and undefined detention, secret detentions, secret hearings, secret evidence, inadequate judicial review, the addition of immigration violations to the National Crime Information Center, special registration, surveillance, profiling based upon race, religion and national origin, among others.
There has been an outstanding lack of outreach to minority communities, particularly the Arab-American, South Asian, Sikh, and Muslim communities, about their civil rights and how they may or may not be affected by policies implemented post-9/11.
The lack of outreach (thus, information) has created a general mistrust amongst many within these communities.
ADC offices and chapters have been reaching out to these communities to provide them with the necessary information. This outreach was particularly stepped up in late 2002 and early 2003 because of the special “call in” registration. ADC has been able to build credibility within these communities and, because of this, has been able to local a few people willing to testify in the litigation regarding how they were directly affected by the Patriot Act. Our experiences have shown to us how absolutely crucial it is for ADC to continue providing information to these communities in order for individuals to know where they stand in terms of various policies as well as their individual liberties; additionally, we cannot abandon these communities and allow for individuals to feel that we come around only when we selfishly need something.
The lack of information from government agencies is not limited to communities directly affected: the general US populace has limited knowledge about who Arabs are, who Muslims are, and what the difference is between an Arab and a Muslim. In an effort to address this lack of information, ADC is sponsoring a series of forums in the Washington DC Metro Area that will discuss these very basic concepts. ADC has already been quite active in reaching out to schools and law enforcement agencies, and has been offering an official series of sensitivity forums on Arabs and Islam.