WASHINGTON, DC — The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) today welcomed a ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that secret immigration hearings violate constitutional First Amendment and due process rights.
The ruling came in the case of Rabih Haddad, the head of an Islamic charity in Michigan, who overstayed his tourist visa and was arrested on Dec. 19. “The public’s interests are best served by open proceedings. A true democracy is one that operates on faith – faith that government officials are forthcoming and honest, and faith that informed citizens will arrive at logical conclusions,” the court ruled. It declared that “this is a vital reciprocity that America should not discard in these troubling times.
Without question, the events of September 11, 2001, left an indelible mark on our nation, but we as a people are united in the wake of the destruction to demonstrate to the world that we are a country deeply committed to preserving the rights and freedoms guaranteed by our democracy.”
ADC President Ziad Asali said, “We are gratified that the court issued such a strong statement against the use of secret hearings against persons facing deportation. Our legal traditions are founded on the understanding that justice cannot be done in secret star-chamber proceedings. Secret hearings, secret detentions, and secret evidence have no place in the American justice system, including immigration courts and proceedings.”
Dr. Asali said that, “combined with the August 2 ruling by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler against secret detentions, in which she ordered the government to release the names of detainees arrested following the Sept. 11 attacks, today‘s ruling constitutes a major blow to the veil of secrecy that has descended on much of our legal system, and a victory for the principles of openness and transparency.
The Arab-American community, which has been seriously affected and deeply concerned about these new secret aspects of our legal processes, has been looking to the judicial branch of government to take the lead in restoring balance to the system.” He added that “we are also very pleased by the release of Dr. Mazen Al- Najjar and his relocation to Lebanon. Dr. Al-Najjar was jailed for three and a half years based on secret evidence, released on the order of a judge, and then once again arrested nine months ago. Even though he never had the chance to challenge or even see the government‘s allegations and evidence against him, it is a very welcome development that he is at last out of jail and that his ordeal is finally at an end.”