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American Muslim

Pakistan Link - August 22, 2003

German Public Television documentary
on mass deportation of Muslims from US

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

German Public Television is preparing a documentary on the mass deportation of Muslims from America. The documentary, that will be shown on Direct TV in France and Germany, includes, among others, interviews with a Pakistani family in San Jose that is affected by the INS special registration.

Ms. Tahira Manzur said she filed I-130’s for her younger sons, Hassan and Ahmad, in February of 2003.  On February 10 she went with her sons to the San Jose INS office to have for special registration procedure. The officers at the San Jose INS office detained and arrested Hassan and released Ahmad.  However they did fill out NTA (Notice to Appear) for both of them.  Hassan was taken to Yuba City. His elder brother filled out a bond and bailed him out on the 11th of February.  They are now under the deportation proceedings right now.

(German Public TV interviews a Pakistani student, Yashar Haider, who chose to leave the US voluntarily in June 2003 to escape deportation.)

The German TV crew recorded the ordeal of a Pakistani student, Yashar Haider, who went for special registration on Feb. 3rd and detained by the immigration authorities for three days before releasing him on bail. Yashar’s lawyer, who accompanied him, had assured him that he was under proper immigration status according to the immigration laws. INS officials have accused him of overstaying in US for 20 days.

The interviews were arranged by Ms. Samina Faheem, the coordinator of the Muslim Nationwide Hotline, established to help those affected by the INS registration.

More than 13,000 of the Arab and Muslim men who came forward earlier this year to register with immigration authorities -- roughly 16 percent of the total -- may now face deportation, government officials say. Only a handful of the men have been linked to terrorism. But of the 82,000 who registered, more than 13,000 have been found to be living in this country illegally, according to the officials. Many had hoped to win leniency by registering and demonstrating their willingness to cooperate with the government's campaign against terror. The men were not promised special treatment, however, and officials believe most of them will be expelled in what is likely to be the largest wave of deportations in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The German documentary also covered a rally and press conference on June 13 in front of the Immigration Office in San Francisco to protest the pending deportation of more than 13000 of the 80,000 who registered since December. 

Mathew Van Saun of the Amnesty International said this is an outright racial profiling and  it is hard to believe that the U.S. advocates this.  “Out of thousands of people registered and interrogated only 11 with alleged links to terrorism.  Amnesty asks the U.S. to abide by international law in this matter.”He expressed concern about the health and safety of the deportees. What will happen to them when they are returned to their countries.  “They may face jail, torture, murder. International law opposes deportation to countries where the safety of the deportee will be in jeopardy.”

Ms. Samina Faheem, Executive Director of the American Muslim Voice, pointed out that  many Muslims are afraid to say anything, they feel alone.  “I have decided to speak for them. I have asked my fellow  Americans to please help me restore faith and hope in the Muslim community. Show them that they are not alone.” She added that   Programs like the Patriot Act, special registration  and secret evidence have created an atmosphere of helplessness, anger,  anxiety, and despair.  We need to replace it with a culture of hope and faith. 

Jayashri Srikantiah, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California told the rally that the deportations are just the latest example of the federal government practice of ethnic scapegoating and stereotyping.  “What the government is doing is targeting nationalities for aggressive enforcement of immigration law.  It is targeting immigrants instead of terrorist. It must stop targeting innocent people. It must stop equating immigrants with terrorists. ” 

Cecilia Chang,  Justice for New Americans, said: “Are we forgetting the fact that this country is made up of immigrants?  And we are now deporting law abiding citizens, law abiding Americans.  I would like to see everyone standing in solidarity with all the Muslims are being mistreated.”

Reverand Oda of Pine United Methodist Church, San Francisco, described these deportations as wrong, unjust, immoral.  “These oppressive actions will have long lasting repercussions.  We need to reach out to people in the Muslim community, create ties and friendships with them.”

The documentary will also have an interview with the mayor of the City of Arcata, CA that made cooperation with the Patriot Act as criminal in May. Starting May 2003, a new city ordinance would impose a fine of $57 on any city department head who voluntarily complies with investigations or arrests under the aegis of the Patriot Act, the anti-terrorism bill passed after Sept. 11. Arcata's law is mostly symbolic, since federal law trumps any local ordinance. Still, the notion of civic disobedience is drawing plenty of attention. More than 100 cities and one state have passed resolutions condemning the USA Patriot Act, saying it gives the federal government too much snooping power.