Is This What Regression Looks Like?

The INS, Special Registration and the Patriot Act I & II

Did you know that the USA PATRIOT Act stands for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism?

This set of laws is another chapter in the extreme anti-immigration that is happening every day in this country. Detentions, detainments, immigrant and political profiling are regular practices used by the INS in the name of anti-terrorism. Male immigrants over the age of 16, from North Korea and 24 countries in the Middle East, from Afghanistan to Pakistan to Iraq and Iran, are being asked to come in to their local INS office for special registration, where they are interrogated, being asked everything from “Do you like Saddam Hussein?” to “What mosque do you pray at?”

For instance, in December and January in LA.., 400 immigrants many of them Iranian living in Southern California were detained for alleged visa irregularities after complying with the INS order. Families in telephone contact with the detainees stated that the detainees were forced to sleep standing up because of overcrowding, or on concrete floors. Some had been hosed down with cold water; some were denied adequate food or water. Thus far, the special registration process has led to deportation proceedings for approximately 5,400 of the 41,000 registered with over 1,700 being detained.

Many folks are being held and sent to county jails and detention centers across the country. Random people are being held based solely on their country of origin and are told that if they contact a lawyer it is an admittance of guilt. An updated INS document dealing with questions and answers about Special Registration states that legal representation is not necessary, but at your option you may be represented at your own expense. This legal representation lasts only until the authorities find something wrong with an individuals papers and then it does not exist at all. People are being held indefinitely. No one detained by the INS since September 11 has been charged with actual involvement in terrorist activity, yet President Bush declared that they “have hauled in about 2,400 of these terrorists, these killers.” The government still hasn’t divulged how many have been detained, deported, or under what charges they are being held.

In 1996 a wave of extreme anti-immigration laws were passed through congress that forced all people who weren’t naturalized citizens, that including people with green cards and people that had been living here since age one, to report to the INS if they have ever been convicted of a felony. Even if they have served jail time, they are then sent to detention centers and deported to their country of origin, some for crimes as minor as drug possession or fighting with their boyfriends. Many have been held since they were first taken in with no information on when they will be released or even what charges they are being held on.

Prisons are making $20-25 a day off of detainees as opposed to about $7-10 off of the general population because of the bloated INS budget. Many jails across the country are building new wings solely for the use of holding immigrant detainees, and are already making millions a year off of their current immigrant populations. This is a business venture for the prison industrial complex and a way for the regime to appear to be doing something to “make America safe again” while allocating funds to some of the most reactionary branches of the government.

Now we are in a throwback to American internment of citizens of Japanese origin with people arrested based solely on their country of origin.

For months, individuals inquired about the status of Patriot Act II and were told that no such legislation was being planned. It was not until a draft of the bill was leaked earlier this year, did we find out the wonderful new propositions.

Sect. 201 & 202: It would enhance the department’s ability to deny releasing material on suspected terrorists in government custody through the Freedom of Information Act. It would also restrict FOIA requests on the EPA’s worst case scenario reports which are referred to as “road maps for terrorists”.

Sect. 301-306: Authorizes creation of a DNA database on “suspected terrorists”, defined to include association with suspected terrorist groups or having supported any group designated as terrorist.

Sect. 405: Allows any suspected terrorist to be held before their trial without bail.

Sect. 501: Establishes that an American citizen could be expatriated “if he becomes a member of, or provides material support, to a group that the United States has designated as a terrorist organization.”

Sometimes I wonder, what are we doing, rather, what am I doing while all this is happening, throwing parties and living life as normal, while people are quietly being taken away and locked up, no explanation, no representation, nothing?

What can we do? What can you do?

Start by talking to everyone you know about what is going on and create an opposition climate, be outraged, and express it. Organize teach-ins, and public events to hear Muslim, South Asian, and Arabic immigrants speak who have been the targets of this oppression. Organize rallies and demos to demand that all detainees be set free, especially in front of special registration sites. Write letters to the editor of all your local papers, or make papers and write about it. Join and support the Blue Triangle Network an organization formed in opposition of the detentions of immigrants. You can find them at Make media, change existing media to better represent what you think it should say. Whatever you do, do something, talk to people you know, talk to people you don’t, because as we all know, if it isn’t you yet, they will come for the rest of us next.