ADC Extremely Concerned by Ashcroft’s Latest Plan

WASHINGTON, DC — The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is deeply concerned about the “Responsible Cooperators Program” announced by Attorney General John Ashcroft this morning. The controversial program, revealed in an interview on the “Today” show, was dubbed by Mr. Ashcroft as another tool in the government’s war against terrorism.
The Attorney General declared that federal officials are willing to provide foreign visitors with visa assistance and a “pathway to citizenship” for immigrants and illegal aliens in exchange for reliable information about terror suspects or plots. The program would also defer deportation procedures indefinitely for illegal aliens who qualify and would allow those with current visa problems to enter the country. ADC believes that this approach will be ineffective and ripe for abuse. First and foremost, programs that offer an easy pathway to citizenship are inherently prone to fraud and abuse for personal gain. Second, had Mr. Ashcroft consulted with anyone familiar with the Arabic language, he would have known that the word “cooperator” has an extremely negative connotation that may deter many from participating in a program such as this. The use of this term is apt to solicit the same Arab reaction as that generated by the unfortunate use of the term “crusade” by President Bush after the September 11 attacks.
ADC Vice President Khalil E. Jahshan decried the new program as “a short-sighted public relations gimmick that is destined to fail because the trust needed to secure Arab participation in such a program no longer exists.” According to Jahshan, “The trust between the U.S. government, including law enforcement agencies, and the Arab community has been eroded over the past few weeks by denial of due process, by revoking of attorney client privileges, by arbitrary and extended detention, and by casting the investigative net so broadly as to implicate thousands of innocent people.”

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