December 24, 2002
WASHINGTON, DC – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the Alliance of Iranian Americans (AIA), the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the National Council of Pakistani Americans (NCPA) filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California against John Ashcroft; Attorney General of the United States, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
The essence of the lawsuit is that on Dec. 16-18, the INS unlawfully arrested large numbers of people, especially in Los Angeles, as they came forward to voluntarily comply with new “special registration” requirements. The groups are seeking an injunction before the next registration deadline to avoid a repetition of last week’s mass arrests. Six individuals detained as a result of the new INS policy of special registrations are co-plaintiffs, and represent a broader group of victims in this class action suit.
The lawsuit takes issue with four aspects of the recent detentions:
1- The detentions were illegal because the government did not obtain the necessary arrest warrants;
2- It is unlawful and unjust to deport people who have been slated for adjustment of status and who have complied with the law at every stage;
3- Detainees are being held without bail or bond, and are subject to deportation without due process;
4- The fear of mass arrests created by these detentions will inhibit compliance by people facing similar registration deadlines in the near future.
The groups are seeking:
1- An injunction ordering the government not arrest any additional persons in the “special registration” process without appropriate warrants from federal judges;
2- An order preventing the deportation of detainees without due process.
Although the special registration policy has been presented as a national security measure designed to counter potential terrorist threats, the INS has been using the registration process to not only enforce immigration law but to arrest and deport people who have complied with the law at every stage and are on the road to becoming permanent residents. The effort to deport law-abiding people who could just as easily be allowed to continue the immigration process seriously undermines prospects for future compliance and constitutes as absurd waste of resources. The mass arrests have further eroded confidence in the fairness of the INS and immigration system among Arab and Muslim communities.
Dec. 16 was the first in a series of deadlines for special registration, which are set to culminate in 2004 with the registration of all foreign nationals in the United States. The mass arrests wich took place in Los Angeles last week, and the lawsuit filed today, have profound significance for the future of the registration process in many immigrant communities, and immigrants’ rights in general.
The lawsuit was filed by attorneys Peter A. Schey and Carlos R. Holguin of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law. Other co- counsel include several attorneys in the ADC Legal Department, Babak Sotoodeh of AIA, Khurrum Wahid of CAIR, Joannie Chang of the Asian Law Caucus, and several California law firms.
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