More Arbitrary Attacks on Immigrants

August 24, 2004

During August, the Department of Homeland Security plans to give immigration officials working along the borders with Mexico and Canada sweeping new powers to deport suspected "illegal aliens" without any judicial review.

This new procedure extends a program put in place in November 2002 at U.S. airports and seaports which authorized immigration police to summarily deport suspected illegal immigrants. In 2003 more than 43,000 people were deported without any recourse to judicial reviews.

Giving immigration officials the power to carry out deportation without judicial review dramatically expands the arbitrary police power of the government. Human rights advocates have pointed out that this arbitrary power means that not only illegal immigrants but also asylum seekers, legal travelers and even U.S. citizens could be deported simply for travelling without certain papers or on the arbitrary whim of an immigration official.

In fact, earlier this month the United Nations released a report, prepared in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security, that reveals how this procedure of "expedited removal" has intimidated many immigrants seeking political asylum and that many asylum seekers were arbitrarily deported in violation of accepted international law. The report documented repeated cases of immigration officials intimidating asylum seekers and treating them with derision. Some of the methods used by immigration officials included racial and sexual taunts, strip searches, belly and leg restraints, etc.

These new immigration regulations again show how the government is using the scarce tactic of the "threat of terrorism" to undermine the democratic rights of the people and build up the arbitrary, repressive power of the state.