Detained South Asians and Muslims without Rights
United Methodists have the opportunity this summer to take up the cause of South Asians, Muslims, and Arabs who are detained or being deported from the USA without consideration of their basic human rights.
A plea to become the voice of these voiceless persons is being made by the United Methodist Women’s Division to those taking part in Schools of Christian Mission. It comes in a letter linked to the study on India and Pakistan.
The India-Pakistan study focuses in part on how globalization, interfaith relations, and the war on terror affect these countries. A related concern is how Pakistanis and South Asians are being treated within the U.S. borders.
The Division’s letter asks United Methodists to approach the media on behalf of the detainee’s rights and their human dignity. The letter states:
“Since September 11, the fear of terrorist attacks has been used to justify a series of laws and regulations that have restricted immigrant rights, legitimized racial profiling by law enforcement agents, and led to the detention of thousands of South Asian, Muslim and Arab boys and men in the US, and the deportation of hundreds. As United Methodist Women study India and Pakistan in schools of mission this year, we can also become aware of how fear and new legislation are affecting South Asian and other Muslim communities in the US, and take action.”
According to a May 24 New York Times article, a program known as “Special Registration” during 2002 and 2003 required boys and men in the United States from more than 20 Muslim-majority countries to “voluntarily” report for registration. They were fingerprinted, photographed and questioned, with the goal of hunting for terrorists. An estimated 83,000 men came forward though only a handful have been charged with terrorism-related offenses. However, 13,000 of those who voluntarily registered were placed into deportation proceedings because of irregularities in their immigration status that would have required simple legal corrections prior to Sept. 11. New immigration laws allow for the detention and criminal interrogation of immigrants for minor immigration violations such as delay in registering a change in address, visa overstay, or other infractions. While Special Registration has ended, some registrants are still in detention under threat of deportation.
On May 24, The Coney Island Project, an advocacy group in Brooklyn, NY, reported that the United States government deported 57 Pakistanis from a Louisiana detention center, including three women and four children, without allowing them to notify family members still living in the U.S. On arrival in Pakistan they were handed over to Pakistani immigration authorities before being released.
The Women’s Division letter states that Pakistani immigrants who are deported are often in a precarious position. It cites a Human Rights Watch report, where in one instance, “Pakistani authorities detained two US citizens of Pakistani origin and brutally tortured them for nine months while the US ‘turned a blind eye in the hopes of gaining information in the war on terror.”
Since 2002, thousands have been sent back to Pakistan, many on minor immigration irregularities, with no accusation of a crime, according to a May Human Rights Watch report.
New laws since September 11, 2001 increase government power to detain terrorist suspects without charge and broaden the powers of search, surveillance and indefinite detention for those awaiting a deportation decision. Racial profiling of Arab, Muslim and South Asian men has been legitimized through national registrations and local police practices, according to the Division’s letter.
The mass deportations, violation of civil rights, and racial profiling has been is a concern of The United Methodist Church. The 2004 General Conference, the legislative-making body of the denomination approved a resolution on “Immigrants and Refugees: To Love the Sojourner.” The resolution calls upon United Methodists to ensure that immigrant rights and dignity are upheld as the government develops policies to combat terrorism.
The Women’s Division closes its appeal for action with:
“As Christians we are called to love ‘the other’ as much as we do ourselves— and especially to treat the “sojourner” with hospitality, compassion and justice. In seeking our own security, we can act to assure that the security and rights of others are not denied. When we treat ‘the other’ as a criminal because of race, ethnicity, religion or national origin, we are separating ourselves from parts of God’s family.”
If you want to participate in this action, go to http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/wdnews.cfm?articleid=3268 .
Date posted: Jul 11, 2005