WASHINGTON DC – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) today expressed serious concerns regarding reports of mass detentions of Arab and other Middle Eastern immigrants in California. Report by Reuters and AP last night suggested that between 500 and 1,000 Middle Eastern immigrants had been detained in the Los Angeles/Orange County area alone.
The reports state that these arrests were almost entirely the result of people coming forward to comply with new alien registration requirements for persons, especially men, from a list of mainly Arab and Middle Eastern states. Reports suggest that Iranian men are heavily represented among the new detainees, especially in southern California. Early indications are that many of those detained have experienced difficulties and delays in adjusting their status, and have been living lawfully in the United States for many years with American spouses and children.
ADC President Ziad Asali said, “our concerns about this new program of alien registration based on national origin seem to have been all too well founded.” Asali added, “this program, which is antithetical to our American values of equal treatment under the law, seems to be, in practice, a vehicle for incarcerating large numbers of people who pose no threat and who do not belong in jail. There is no evidence that this action by the Administration will enhance national security in the face of terrorist threats against the United States. On the contrary, it might play into the hands of those who claim that the US government is motivated by anti-Islamic sentiments.”
ADC has consistently opposed new alien registration polices as clearly discriminatory on the basis of national origin. A series of executive branch policy changes since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have, taken together, amounted to the reintroduction of ethnic and national origin discrimination into the American immigration system for the first time in many decades. These policies include, not just alien registration based on national origin, but measures which discriminate against Arabs and Muslims with regarding to visa screening procedures, “voluntary interviews” with thousands of young Arab men, selectively deporting Middle Eastern so-called “absconders,” and secretly detaining and deporting persons for minor visa violations often without due process.