Judicial Hypocrisy

Last Friday, Attorney General John Ashcroft implemented a disconcerting new rule that will force the indefinite detainment without bail of any illegal immigrant to the United States, regardless of the existence of connections to any terrorist group. Though promoted as an effort to improve national security, this measure deprives innocent people of their freedom and defiles the underlying principles that founded this country. Ashcroft’s decision was prompted by a recent case involving a Haitian immigrant seeking asylum in the U.S. The immigrant’s release on bail worried Mr. Ashcroft, who feared a flood of more such journeys into the nation, in a situation that would likely heighten concerns about national security. The Attorney General’s decision will have an immediate impact on many immigrant communities in our nation, and perhaps nowhere more so than within the large Haitian community in Florida. Ashcroft claimed his decision was essential in order to inhibit mass migration from Haiti. If this mass migration were to be encouraged, his Justice Department reasoned, it would serve as a dangerous precedent for the possible future mass migration of Pakistanis and Palestinians; a country immersed in a war against terrorism, after all, should hardly direct its resources towards inspecting individual immigrants for security risk. Ever since the tragic events of September 11th, the government has continued to implement powerful measures to avoid further potential terrorist attacks. In March, officials reported that they would arrest any people from 33 countries, including Iraq, who enter American airports or cross our borders in search of a political sanctum. However, Ashcroft’s pronouncement is the first instance in which officials have determined to confine immigrants who clearly have no affiliation to terrorists as part of an endeavor to deal with greater security anxieties. Before Ashcroft’s ruling, judges in bail hearings evaluated each immigrant to determine whether or not he would pose a potential threat to the larger community or had any link with terrorist groups; such examination is the only fair and just way to cope with asylum-seekers looking to America for political and religious freedom. Formed by the perpetual influx of illegal immigrants, our country has grown into its current superpower status because of the drive of those seeking a “new world.” Since America’s discovery, new immigrants have continued to pour into the country. These brave individuals are responsible for the diverse, bountiful, and cultured country we enjoy today. However, Ashcroft’s new decree will stem this vital influx of knowledge and contributions from outside our country’s borders and inhibit our progress toward an increasingly multifaceted society. Our government promises to guarantee “liberty and justice for all”, and its officials, who have pledged to uphold the U.S. Constitution, have no business detaining immigrants without just cause. In turbulent times, with U.S. soldiers in Iraq risking their lives to reinforce American ideals, it is more important than ever for us to consider the implications of this new security decree. If we can forcefully invade another country with the mission to liberate it, how can we not allow those who seek liberation to enter our society? Many of the immigrants who seek a new life in the U.S. are evading ruthless dictators who provide nothing but misery and grief. If we actually do hope to free innocent Iraqis from merciless tyrants like Saddam Hussein, we cannot turn our backs on those fleeing similarly harsh rulers in their respective home countries.