Monday, 19 July 2004

Diplomatic protests at DHS orders against Pakistani-Americans

The recent orders from the USA Department of Homeland Security to its immigration inspectors to give “special” scrutiny at borders and ports to arriving Pakistanis and Pakistani-Americans, including citizens of the USA of Pakistani “descent” like me (my mother was a child of American expatriates born in what is now Pakistan), continues to draw little comment in mainstream USA news and opinion media despite growing diplomatic protest from Pakistan, the first signs of objection from a member of Congress, and front-page coverage in South Asian-American publications.

The DHS order appears to be in flagrant violation of USA laws against government discrimination between classes of USA citizens on the basis of national origin. And one legal scholar I asked about it responded immediately that the inclusion of descendants, on the basis of ancestry, sounded like “corruption of blood”, a feudal and common-law concept which was explicitly banned by the USA Constitution. (“No attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture, except during the life of the person attainted.”)

The story was first reported in the Los Angeles Times on 1 July 2004:

[T]he Department of Homeland Security has ordered its inspectors at America’s largest airports to scrutinize all travelers of Pakistani descent — including U.S. citizens — in an effort to catch terrorist trainees who might try to enter the United States, officials said Wednesday…. [I]ts warning … began circulating June 17…. A Homeland Security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the warning had been issued, but said it was confidential.

By 10 July 2004, following the first round of publicity in South Asian and South Asian-American news media, the DHS orders had become a topic of debate on the floor of Pakistan’s national legislature, the Daily Times was reporting from Islamabad:

The Opposition on Friday urged the government to protest the US government’s recent decision to screen all Pakistani citizens at American airports. Senator Professor Ghafoor Ahmed, on a point of order in the Senate, referred to the recent disclosure that the US government had started discriminatory screening of Pakistani citizens, including Pakistani students, at American airports, criticising the procedure.

“US authorities have adopted a very insulting procedure of screening Pakistani citizens, students and Pakistanis who are naturalised US citizens,” he added. He urged the government to protest this screening with the US government.

The INDOlink Web site for NRI’s (“non-resident Indians”, i.e. persons of Indian origin or ancestry not resident in India) reported that just such diplomatic protest was in fact made — and that it was endorsed by at least one member of Congress:

Pakistan has lodged a strong protest with the United States State Department over an official memo that singles out Pakistanis and Pakistani-Americans for extra scrutiny at US airports.

Ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, who lodged the complaint, had received an instruction from Islamabad last week to convey Pakistan’s sentiments over the issue to the US administration.

Meanwhile, a prominent American lawmaker, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee , also said that the Department of Homeland Security should not have issued “a blanket advisory that targets an entire nationality including those who are US citizens.”…

The Congresswoman also advised the Bush administration, … “[W]e can not allow an entire group of people to be targeted without any evidence of wrongdoing”.

Congresswoman Jackson Lee is the ranking minority member of the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims , but it remains to be seen whether she will be able to put the question on the Subcommittee or Congressional agenda.

This Saturday, 17 July, the public clamor in Pakistan continued, with Karachi’s largest newspaper, Dawn , reporting on renewed debate in the legislature:

The government told the Senate on Friday that it had asked the United States to review body search procedures recently introduced at major US airports for Pakistani visitors and denounced the move as a violation of human rights.

Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri said he had made the demand to US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage during a meeting with him in Islamabad on Thursday and that the matter would be taken up also with US lawmakers to urge them to change the law allowing such procedures.

The minister made a strong statement on a point of order raised by Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader in the upper house Raza Rabbani who called the search procedures “most shameful” and virtual stripping of Pakistani visitors.

“Certainly what he said is right…,” Mr Kasuri said about Mr Rabbani’s objection to a memo issued by the US Department of Homeland Security to major airports in the country to carefully monitor all travellers of Pakistani origin, including US citizens, and added: “It is a wrong order, it is violation of human rights.”…

Mr Kasuri, who did not say anything about Mr Armitage’s response, assured the house that he would tell US lawmakers whenever he would meet them, to change the law providing for such body searches and that the Pakistani embassy in Washington would also be told to make similar approaches to US Congress members. He said the American embassy in Islamabad had also been informed about Pakistan’s concerns over the procedures.

Link | Posted by Edward on Monday, 19 July 2004, 22:00 (10:00 PM)

Interesting tidbits here on DHS - I feel so secure!

Posted by: jan, 21 July 2004, 04:01 ( 4:01 AM)
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