Last night, Alex and I went to see LOTR at the Fox theatre in Westwood. The Wilshire exit was closed because of a protest at the Federal building, so we had to use the Santa Monica Bl. exit. I just found out why Wilshire was closed: People were upset because of the mass arrests of Muslims by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
About a month ago, the INS issued a new directive requiring all males age 16 and over, who are in the U.S. on non-immigrant visas (e.g. students, tourists, temporary workers, people awaiting adjustment to immigrant status, refugees, etc.) to get their fingerprints and pictures taken by INS. The country list was broken into two: Nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria had to register by the 16th of December, and nationals of the rest of the Middle East have to register by January 10th. The directive was poorly publicized, but even so, people from the first group showed up to comply, only to see a great number of them promptly arrested by INS for even the most routine violations (violations for which nationals of other countries such as Mexico are NOT even being looked at.) The protests were being led by Iranian Americans, as non-immigrant members of that community were the first to go through the registration process and resulting mass arrests.
This is supposed to make America safer? The INS website says that the reason behind this is that nationals of certain countries require “closer monitoring.” This is preposterous!
The measure is inefficient. The only people to have been arrested and charged on terrorism charges since 9/11 are: Richard Reid, John Walker Lindh, Zacarias Moussaoui, and Jose Padilla. Reid is British, Moussaoui is French, and Lindh and Padilla are American. In other words, it’s their behavior that should have required “closer monitoring,” not their ethnicity. But Ashcroft is convinced this is the right way to do it, so while the next Lindh and Padilla are being brainwashed somewhere, your computer science professor, your OB-GYN, your cab driver, and your gas station attendant, are all being harassed.
The measure is also inconsistent. Even if it were OK to monitor nationals of certain countries, why aren’t Saudi nationals being subjected to this, when 17 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia? Why? Well, one wouldn’t want to upset one’s business partners and fellow oil company colleagues, would one?
In addition, the INS is so convinced of the righteousness and legality of this that it has refused to release information about the specific number of people it has arrested. You’ll just have to trust them. There’s no need for checks and balances. They even have a cool euphemism for this “measure”: special registration. One man’s police state is another’s… never mind.
In related news, the U.S. territory of American Samoa has barred any Middle Eastern person from entering its territory. Pure and simple. I guess none of these people is showing up there anytime soon.