Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Post #168 - Profiling as Policy

Recently (especially since 2001) it has become harder to be Iranians (especially if they are Muslims) living in the United States. Their immigration status often comes under scrutiny. Travel to one's homeland entails having to come back through U.S. Customs, where not every resident (or even U.S. citizen) is treated the same. A recent study by New York University School of Law's Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, offered (according to an InterPress report) “a searing indictment of U.S. immigration practices toward thousands of Muslim immigrants during the past six years.” The report, Americans on Hold: Profiling, Citizenship, and the "War on Terror," documents “expanded security checks” and “citizenship delays...often for years on end. Many have lived in the United States lawfully for many years.” The article goes on to say:

"Airport officials are reportedly required to stop anyone with a 'Muslim name' and name-check that individual against the list...
"The report cites the example of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, which required non-citizen males from 25 countries designated as threats to national security to register formally with the government. With the exception of North Korea, those countries have predominantly Arab or Muslim populations.
"'Discriminatory profiling is illegal under international law and is a poor substitute for real intelligence work,' said Jayne Huckerby, research director for The Human Rights Center.. '..Taking years to identify individuals who are security threats does not make us safer. Ensuring timely and good faith completions of background checks will help the U.S. advance its national security goals,' she said.
"Federal law requires the [government] to grant or deny citizenship within 120 days of an applicant's examination...But many Muslim applicants have been waiting in uncertainty, delaying family and business decisions as their papers are delayed for one, two or even three years.
"The study quotes the immigration service's ombudsman as saying that prolonged name checks “…rarely, if ever, achieve their intended national security objectives."

Both similarities and differences between Iranians, other Muslims and the general U.S. population deserve scientific study, rather than stereotyping based on rumor and misinformation. A Pew Research Center poll found the following attitudes among the 2.35 million Muslims in America (the number which the Center itself uses, which is not universally accepted as the correct one, since the U.S. Census does not ask religious affiliation):
  • 63% thought there was no natural conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society
  • 58% had “very unfavorable” attitudes toward al-Qaeda
  • 78% felt that suicide bombing against civilians was “never justified”
  • 48% judged the U.S. decision to use military force in Afghanistan “wrong”
  • 55% thought that the US-led war on terrorism was not a sincere effort to reduce international terrorism
Author and professor Noam Chomasky
Regarding the last point: part of the reason the world may not take out anti-terrorism campaign seriously is that, as Noam Chomsky points out (in Failed States), we have often set aside terrorism concerns if they were trumped by various other priorities. Chomsky cites several instances of variance from the Bush doctrine "those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves:"

  • Luis Posada Carriles, "one of the most notorious Latin American terrorists" was in the United States when Venezuela sought to extradite him to face charges in the deaths of 73 passengers aboard a bombed airliner. The United States, having hired Posada to work in support of the contras, declined to grant extradition; a Posada associate and terrorist in his own right, Orlando Bosch, was pardoned by President G.H.W. Bush over the objections of his own Department of Justice.
  • Dora Maria Tellez was denied a visa to come teach at Harvard Divinity School, based on her opposition to Nicaraguan tyrant Anastasia Somoza Debayle, who was then favored by the United States.
  • The administration enraged Italian investigators of terrorism in Europe, when it had a terror suspect of interest kidnapped there and sent to Egypt (one of several destinations in the "torture archipelago" we have used). The CIA operatives involved were indicted by Italian courts.
  • Though our National Intelligence Council "predicted that an American-led invasion of Iraq would increase support for political Islam" and Iraq could "provide recruitment, training grounds, technical skills and language proficiency for a new class of terrorists," we still invaded Iraq.
  • The Iranian Mujaheddin who sought refuge in Iraq, the United States and elsewhere after leaving Iran, are on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations, but are not being actively prosecuted for their crimes in Iran or elsewhere; they have been allowed to stay intact within Iraq, and may even have been pressed into service for clandestine actions against Iran.

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