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The State of Civil Liberties

A Nation of Immigrants
I want to say a few words about the people who were detained after September 11. We pride ourselves on being a nation of immigrants, yet we frequently fail to meet the standard of tolerance and fairness implied by that self-image. Popular anger at immigrants has periodically boiled over and immigrant groups have frequently been used as scapegoats in American politics.

After September 11, more than 1,200 individuals were arrested or detained and an unknown number of these people are still in government custody. Since they are not American citizens, we tend to view them as having fewer rights than those of us who are citizens.

While it is true that non-citizens are denied certain civic rights, such as the right to vote, the fact is that many of the constitutionally guaranteed rights apply to citizens and non-citizens alike. For example, the Fifth Amendment guarantee of due process makes no distinction between individuals, and instead is very clear that "No person shall…be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of the law." Therefore, any denial of due process has to be of concern to every American, for when the rights of any are sacrificed the rights of none are safe.

The Administration refuses to release crucial information about the fate of the remaining detainees. The Justice Department has responded to the ACLU's repeated requests for information by engaging in a game of hide-and-seek, withholding information that could prove that the vast majority of detainees have no connection at all to terrorism. This information may also show that many of the detainees were denied access to counsel.