September 3, 2003

C.U. Report Critical of post-Sept. 11 Practices

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“America’s Challenge: Domestic Security, Civil Liberties and National Unity After September 11,” a report issued this past summer by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), both criticizes and commends the US government’s post-Sept. 11 anti-terrorism immigration and security measures.

Three different aspects of the measure: their effectiveness in fighting terrorism, their impact on civil liberties and their consequence on America’s interaction with the immigrant community are deeply scrutinized in the report.

The report’s criticism is mainly against the US government’s harsh measures against immigrants since Sept. 11. It claims that those measures have “failed to make us safer, have violated our fundamental civil liberties, and have undermined national unity.”

“The devastating attacks of Sept. 11 demanded an aggressive response,” said Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at MPI and coauthor of the report, “but the ways that immigration measures have been used so far after Sept. 11 have not been effective in creating an aggressive response.”

According to the report, US immigration policy has targeted Arab and Muslim Americans, many of whom were denied access to attorneys and then detained for weeks or months without a charge after a judge ordered them on release.

In addition, research on the 1,200 people detained since the attacks revealed information on more than 400 of the detainees and showed that nearly half of those had been residents of the United States for at least six years.

The research was conducted mostly by law students at Cornell University and consisted of numerous interviews with community leaders and lawyers as well as surveys from local press reports. Much of the research was included in the report’s appendix, which contains the available summaries of each of the individuals’ detained.

The report also critically examines the negative impact of singling out Arab and Muslim Americans in the immigrant community and its relationship with nonimmigrant Americans. Such actions have ostracized many immigrants, who are critical to helping antiterrorist efforts, claims the report. However, some “aspects of the government actions have been inadvertently positive,” said Prof. Stephen Yale-Loehr, law, coauthor of the report. “There was somewhat of a Muslim moment, they are exercising their rights, more and more are naturalizing and that is a good thing,” he said.

A second portion of the report was very supportive of certain antiterrorist actions taken by the US government after Sept. 11. “The government actions are correct where intelligence is concerned,” Meissner said.

In fact, almost all legitimate arrests in connection with terrorism made after Sept. 11 have been the result of proper intelligence and cooperation between law enforcement and information agencies. The government’s strong point in dealing with the threats of terrorism stemmed from the use of intelligence, the report stated.

In addition to the extensive analysis of post-Sept. 11 government action, the MPI report includes a great deal of suggestions and methods by which its writers believe the US government can more effectively deal with the terrorist threat.

The report’s “recommendations can make us safer and still protect our civil liberties at the same time,” Yale-Loehr said.

The recommendations consist mainly of an increased reliance on intelligence to identify potential terrorists, an efficient system of communication between law enforcement agencies and immigration services and at the same time a preservation of the basic constitutional rights of due process for immigrants.

Though the report’s recommendations fall on both sides of the political spectrum, its authors did not describe it as a compromise between extreme ideas.

Coauthor Yale-Loehr described the report as “what Bill Clinton called a third way, an alternative approach.”

Meissner said that “the report was never intended to be a compromise but rather an effort to look at research and uncover an intelligent solution.”

Coauthors were hesitant to speculate on the likelihood that the report will influence policy makers. Yale-Loehr, affirmed that the report was coauthored by very influential people and that “[the writers] continue to hold off the record briefings with members of Congress.” Meissner also asserted that coauthors were doing everything possible “to disseminate the report and talk to policy makers about it.”

Both Yale-Loehr and Kathleen Newland, co-director and board member of MPI, acknowledged the importance of Cornell involvement in the compilation of the report.

“Stephen Yale-Loehr . . . was central to developing the concepts and particularly the sub legal side,” Newland said.

“I got a lot of support from the Cornell Law School … several Cornell Law students helped with the report,” Yale-Loehr said.

Newland added that “[the law students] did some very important research tracing the experience that people detained after Sept. 11 had had. They also contributed to some of the basic legal writing.”

Archived article by David Andrade