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Panel Explores 9/11’s Legal Impact on Immigration, Civil Rights

September 08, 2011

Ten years after 9/11, the U.S. response to terrorism has cast a shadow over civil rights and immigration policy, legal experts said during a panel discussion at the school on Sept. 7.

The anniversary of 9/11 recalls searing memories and offers an opportunity to consider how the nation has responded to the horrific events a decade ago, said Professor Anil Kalhan, serving as moderator.

The deportation of some 13,000 men of East Asian and Middle Eastern descent who had voluntarily reported to immigration authorities demonstrates the way immigration law was used to meet national security objectives, said Deepa Iyer, executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together.

“None were found to be associated with terrorism,” Iyer said.

Law enforcement officials have sometimes dispatched paid informants to promote violence at mosques in an effort to capture terrorists, said Moein Khawaja, executive director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations of Pennsylvania.

The infiltration of mosques by law enforcement has discouraged law-abiding Muslims from worshipping, Khawaja said, adding that the FBI is not as vigilant as it could be in monitoring domestic extremism that is widely promoted in online chat rooms.

The nation has redrawn foreign and domestic policies in troubling ways, said Mary Catherine Roper, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania’s Philadelphia Office.

The use of “black ops,” or extraordinary renditions that amount to kidnapping, the increase of warrantless wiretaps and the replacement of judicial proceedings with military commissions have produced “a cancer on our legal system,” Roper said.

Excessive scrutiny of the Arab, East Asian, Sikh and Muslim communities does nothing to protect the nation from the real threats posed by homegrown terrorists and violent individuals from other parts of the world, the panelists said.

Fortunately, Iyer said, public interest organizations and law-school based clinics are working to address some of the legal fallout from Islamophobia.

The event was co-sponsored by the law school, the American Constitution Society, the International Law and Human Rights Society, the Middle Eastern Law Students Association, the Drexel National Lawyers Guild and the Philosophy Club.