Thousands Protest the Arrest of Immigrants

January 6, 2003

On December 18, over 3,000 people in Los Angeles demonstrated against the recent arrest of hundreds of immigrants by federal immigration officials in Southern California.

INS officials stated that between 500 to 700 individuals were arrested in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego between December 15-18, after thousands of immigrants were summoned "to comply with a new rule to register with immigration authorities." Some unconfirmed reports put the number of arrests as high as 1,000.

The arrests were part of a recent program that requires all males over 16, from a list of 20 Arab or Middle East countries, who do not have permanent resident status in the U.S., to register with U.S. immigration authorities. December 16 was the deadline for men from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Sudan.

Registration requires immigrants to be fingerprinted, photographed and interrogated. Failure to answer any questions, such as questions concerning political and religious beliefs, friends, family, etc., are grounds for deportation.

The head of the Southern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union compared the arrests to the internment of Japanese Americans in camps during the Second World War. "I think it is shocking what is happening. It is reminiscent of what happened in the past with the internment of Japanese Americans. We are getting a lot of telephone calls from people. We are hearing that people went down wanting to cooperate and then they were detained," said Ramona Ripston, the ACLU's executive director.

One lawyer said local jails were so overcrowded that the immigrants could be sent to Arizona, where they could face weeks or months in prisons awaiting hearings before immigration judges or deportation.

At the protest, many carried signs saying "What Next? Concentration Camps?"

Racist profiling and mass deportations are part of the government's war program. Precisely because U.S. imperialism is preparing new wars against Iraq, Palestine, Iran and other countries, the government is trying to silence any voice of opposition and degrade the peoples of these countries.