Report Alleges Abuse of Immigrant Detainees Post-Sept. 11
Hundreds of immigrants detained after the September 11 terrorist attacks suffered civil rights violations, including physical and verbal abuse and limited access to legal counsel, according to a report issued June 2 by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine of the Department of Justice. The report focuses on two detention facilities that housed the majority of the immigrants, most of them of Arab and South Asian descent, detained in the 11-month period immediately following the attacks. Although all of the detainees had violated the terms of their visas, the report finds that no distinction was made between immigration violators and terrorist suspects. In addition, the report faults the FBI and the Department of Justice's immigration arm for poor communication, lack of clear priorities, and understaffing.
Civil rights advocates, immigrant groups, and most researchers have said that Fine's report confirms their fears that civil liberties have been severely compromised in the name of national security. For his part, Attorney General John Ashcroft has defended his department's actions and is asking Congress for broader powers over suspected terrorists, a request that has prompted public expressions of skepticism by many members of Congress.
The government can continue to withhold the names of hundreds of immigrants detained in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, according to a June 17 ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The 2-1 decision by the panel of judges overturned the August ruling of a lower court, and found that disclosure of the identities of the over 1,200 detainees could aid terrorists in planning for future attacks. Attorney General John Ashcroft praised the decision for limiting terrorists' access to information, and stated that all actions taken to support the government during the war on terrorism are valuable. However, many civil rights and immigrant advocacy groups condemned the decision, contending that the protection of individual rights, a constitutional role of the judicial branch, is being neglected in the government's antiterrorism campaign. These groups point to an array of documents indicating that the detainees have been abused, most importantly a report released June 2 by the Department of Justice's Inspector General Glenn A. Fine. The decision will be appealed.
The 38.8 million Hispanics in the United States are now the nation's largest minority group, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released on June 18. The data, taken from the March 2002 Current Population Survey, confirms the expectations of many analysts, despite earlier predictions by some that Hispanics would not outnumber African Americans until 2012. The group's growth is attributed to international migration and high birth rates in relation to other groups in the United States. The population totals for other minority groups in the U.S. are as follows: Blacks, 38.3 million; Asians, 13.1 million; American Indians and Alaska Natives, 4.3 million; and Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, 0.9 million. Other Census Bureau data show that 68.6 percent of Hispanics participate in the civilian labor force, and that 21 percent were below the poverty line in 2001, compared with national averages of 66.5 percent and 11.7 percent, respectively.
The number of H-1B visa holders dropped from over 331,000 in FY2001 to approximately 197,500 in FY2002, a decrease of over 40 percent, according to the 2002 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics published by the Department of Homeland Security. The decline is attributed to slack demand for high-skilled workers because of the economic slowdown that followed the September 11 terrorist attacks. Computer-related visas, which have always accounted for the majority of H-1B visas, fell from 58 percent of all such visas granted in FY2001 to 38 percent in FY2002. Barring any legislative changes, the current cap of 195,000 visas will revert back to 65,000 in FY2004. (See November 2002 Spotlight for more information)