Human Rights First Welcomes Partial Suspension of “Special Registration” Requirement Aimed at Arab and Muslim Visitors
On December 1, 2003, the US Department of Homeland Security announced that it would abandon aspects of a controversial initiative requiring all males over the age of 16 from 25 predominantly Arab and Muslim countries to report and register with the government upon penalty of deportation. Under the new policy, welcomed by Human Rights First, those targeted by the Department’s registration program will still be photographed and fingerprinted when they arrive in the United States, but they will no longer have to re-register repeatedly if they remain in the country for more than a month.
Erosion of Civil Liberties Reflects a “New Normal” in America – not Temporary Sacrifices – since 9/11
In the two years following the 9/11 attacks, the relationship between the U.S. government and the people it serves changed dramatically. This “new normal” of U.S. governance is defined by “the loss of particular freedoms for some, and worse, a detachment from the rule of law as a whole,” a report by Human Rights First found.
The changes included a real shift in the U.S. position toward immigrants and refugees. Far from viewing immigrants as a pillar of strength, U.S. policy began to reflect an assumption that immigrants are a national security threat. Through the expenditure of enormous resources, the civil immigration system has become a principal instrument to secure the detention of “suspicious” individuals when a government trawling for information can find no conduct that would justify their detention on any criminal charge.
Operation Liberty Shield Quietly Terminated
“Operation Liberty Shield,” including its provision regarding the detention of asylum seekers, has been officially “terminated” by the Department of Homeland Security. It is not clear however whether the Department is taking steps to release any asylum seekers detained under the policy who meet the relevant parole criteria.
Operation Liberty Shield was announced by the Department of Homeland Security on March 17, 2003, on the eve of the war with Iraq. One of its provisions required that asylum seekers arriving from an undisclosed list of nations and territories be detained for the duration of their asylum proceedings without the possibility of an individualized review of the need for their detention.
Targeted asylum seekers were believed to be those arriving from 33 countries and 2 territories, including Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Yemen, as well as Gaza and the West Bank.