ADC Protests Extensive Use of Secret Hearings, Secret Detentions against Immigrants

WASHINGTON, DC — The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) today strongly protested the government’s extensive use of secret immigration hearings since Sept. 11th, which the Justice Department says have been used in over 600 cases. ADC also continues to categorically oppose the use of secret detentions against noncitizens.
The Justice Department states that over 1200 people have been secretly detained since Sept. 11th, that 600 of them have been subjected to secret hearings, and now says that 81 people remain in secret detention. In October, ADC along with the ACLU and a number of other organizations, filed a freedom of information act request followed by a lawsuit to try to discover the actual number and identity of people being held in secret detention. At least three federal District Court judges have ruled that these secret hearings and/or secret detentions violate constitutional due process protections.
The revelation that over 600 persons have been subjected to secret immigration hearings confirms the extent to which the civil rights of noncitizens facing deportation, particularly Arabs and Muslims from South Asia, have been damaged since the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks on the United States.
ADC believes that the vast majority of the detainees have been of Arab ethnicity and/or Muslim religious affiliation. ADC notes that these individuals have not been accused of any involvement with terrorism of any kind, or of having any information about or relevant to any investigation of terrorism.
ADC further notes that persons of Arab ethnicity and Muslim religious affiliation are not only being detained in a manner not applied to other noncitizens, they are being deported for trivial and otherwise unenforced violations of immigration law. Among the more egregious examples include a Palestinian man being deported for not reporting a change of address to the INS within 10 days of moving and a Pakistani man being deported for helping fellow immigrants who were out of status to find housing.
ADC President Ziad Asali said, “the practice of secret detentions and secret hearings has no place whatever in a free and just society, least of all United States of America. As several judges, members of Congress, and respected commentators across the country have pointed out, cloaking immigration law enforcement proceedings and detentions behind a veil of secrecy is repugnant to democracy. Justice, as the framers of the Constitution were well aware, requires openness and the cleansing light of public scrutiny. Secrecy invites abuse. We urge the Justice Department to end its use of secret detentions and secret hearings once and for all, and instead rely on the traditions of fairness and openness that are the hallmarks of the American system of justice.”
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