Hello Everybody. This is Cyrus Mehta. Welcome to this week’s edition of immigration matters.
Last Saturday, February 15, witnessed an amazing protest all over the globe. Millions came out spontaneously on the streets in various cities of the world to oppose the Bush administration’s war policy in Iraq.
Regardless of what one’s opinion may be about the justness of the war against Iraq, this rally has been hailed as an historic event and possibly the beginning of a new world order that could be the only counter balance to the policies of a super power. Patrick Tyler of the New York Times wrote “He (President Bush) appears to be eyeball to eyeball with a tenacious new adversary, millions of people who flooded the streets of dozens of cities around the world…”
I too was at the anti-war protest in New York, which drew between 200,000 to 500,000 people in freezing sub zero weather. What I saw was not just hatred toward war, but also disenchantment with the Bush administration’s international and domestic policies.
While President Bush is obsessed about waging war with Iraq, despite mounting anti-war sentiment all over the world, his Attorney General, John Ashcroft, has been waging a war against both citizens and immigrants in the US.
In previous segments, we have reported how over 1200 people from Muslim countries were rounded up and kept detained for extended periods of time shortly after the September 11 tragedy. None of these people were ever charged with terrorism. More recently, the Special Registration Program has targeted certain non-citizens not because of individualized guilt or suspicion, but because of one’s shared nationality with a country that has a significant Muslim population. Even US citizens, who have been designated as enemy combatants, have been deprived of every possible freedom. They do not have the right to a lawyer and have been kept confined, perhaps indefinitely, in military brigs.
If President Bush disregards international public opinion and wages a war, there is bound to be heightened fear of reprisals in the US. In times of insecurity, people are more willing to trade their civil liberties in exchange for the illusion of security. The 1930s saw the rise of brutal fascist regimes in European capitals arising out of a similar fear and insecurity, whipped up largely by politicians.
Indeed, draft legislation recently leaked from the Department of Justice that would expand the USA Patriot Act. The proposed legislation, also dubbed as Patriot II, would grant government authorities unprecedented enforcement and intelligence gathering powers. It would authorize secret arrests, and create new death penalty offences. Section 501 of the Act would take American citizenship away from a person who belongs to, or support, groups that the US has designated as “terrorist organizations.” Section 503 of Patriot II would eliminate due process entirely by allowing summary deportations without evidence of crime, criminal intent or terrorism for immigrants, including green card holders, whom the Attorney General determines are a threat to national security. These are just a few provisions, among many, that would further undermine due process and the freedom that we people enjoy in America
While the Bush administration attempts to undermine international institutions and treaties that have preserved global peace and order, his Attorney General is slowly chipping away at the US constitution.
A climate of fear was instilled though President Bush’s simplistic statement – either you are with us or with the terrorists. In December 2001, John Ashcroft told Congress that those who criticize the government’s policies would be viewed as unpatriotic. Much of the media and most members of Congress have abdicated their responsibility of being more vocal against the administration’s policies at the expense of being viewed as unpatriotic. Fortunately, the burgeoning peaceful protest and dissent of people from all over the world, as we saw last Saturday, gives many a ray of hope.
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This is Cyrus Mehta wishing you a wonderful weekend. See you again in two weeks.