NY Protest Against Detention Of Immigrants
2 February 2002.
by Priya Malhotra
New York ---- Uzma Naheed said she never could imagine being treated like
this in America. Standing in front of a crowd of over 100 people at New
York's Union Square, the Pakistan-born Naheed looked anguished, but was
strikingly confident as she narrated her story during a protest of the
detention of immigrants after last year's terrorist attack.
Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), a community organization, claims that
the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Immigration and Naturalization
Service (INS) have detained over 1,200 immigrants, mainly of South Asian
and Arab origin, since September 11. So, on Jan. 21, the birthday of the
father of the civil rights movementMartin Luther King, Jr.DRUM, the Coalition
for the Human Rights of Immigrants, the Prison Moratorium Project and
others rallied against the detentions, calling them the "worst kind of
Naheed said that on October 3, 2001, FBI and INS officials searched her
home in New Jersey and threatened to arrest her. When she asked why, they
allegedly told her it was because her brother, who had been arrested a
few days earlier, and she lived in the same house.
As Naheed had recently had a baby, her truck driver husband, Anser Mehmood,
told them to arrest him instead. The federal officials took him away,
allegedly saying he would be home in three or four days, Naheed claimed.
More than three months later, Mehmood, who has lived in the United States
for ten years, has still not returned home. Naheed insisted that she does
not even know the charges against him. She did, however, admit that the
family had overstayed its visasan offense for which people were not actively
apprehended before Sept.11, according to Neil Weinrib, a New York-based
immigration attorney. He added that after Sept. 11, some people were being
detained without charges.
After the terror attacks last year, the US government cracked down on
immigrants, detaining those it believed potential terrorists or linked
to terrorists. A passing suspicion, however, is often all it takes to
hold an immigrant. Civil rights activists have argued that judgments are
frequently based on racial profiling, adding that there is no public information
about the detainees. Of the total number of detainees, DRUM estimates
that over 500 are of Pakistani origin.
At the Union Square subway station, protesters held up placards that said,
"We're all Immigrants, End Detentions Now" and "Don't Deport My Daddy."
At the following news conference, DRUM Director Monami Maulik said most
detainees were being held for immigration violations like overstaying
their visas, which would have been ignored prior to Sept. 11.
DRUM has called for the release of all detainees being held for immigration
breaches. The group, whose workers have been periodically visiting the
detainees, has asked for a complete list of those held and demanded that
the detainees have full access to legal information and representation.
Activists at the rally said many detainees were without legal counsel.
"We need lawyers to do pro bono and low-cost work for the INS detainees,"
said MacDonald Scott, a legal worker with the National Lawyers Guild.
The INS is not compelled to ensure legal assistance for detainees, according
to Weinrib. Kerry Gill, INS spokesperson of the Newark, NJ branch, however,
told News India Times, "When people come into
our custody, we provide lists of free legal service providers."
From Union Square the protesters went to Passaic County Jail in New Jersey,
which has the largest number detainees. "About 250 are currently in the
Passaic County Jail and about half of them are Muslim," said Passaic County
Sheriff Jerry Speziale outside the facility, where security had been beefed
up in anticipation of the protest.
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