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 Tuesday, 24 December, 2002, 23:45 GMT
US Muslims sue over mass arrests
A woman sobs over the detention of her son
The scheme has caused deep upset
US Muslim groups have launched a class action lawsuit against Attorney General John Ashcroft and federal immigration officials over the detention of hundreds of Muslim men.

Four groups said they had filed the suit to protest against last week's controversial round-up of men from Arab and Muslim nations without permanent residency status in the Los Angeles area.

PLAINTIFFS
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Alliance of Iranian Americans
Council on American-Islamic Relations
National Council of Pakistani Americans
Immigration lawyers said as many as 1,000 men who had voluntarily come to register themselves in accordance with an anti-terror scheme were detained, although federal officials said fewer than 250 had been held.

The lawsuit asks for an injunction to prevent the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) from further detaining those still in the process of applying for residency.

"The effort to deport law abiding people who could just as easily be allowed to continue the immigration process seriously undermines prospects for future compliance and constitutes an absurd waste of resources," the groups said in a statement.

"The mass arrests have further eroded confidence in the fairness of the INS and the immigration system among Arab and Muslim communities."

'Scam'

Civil liberties groups in the US have already called on the justice department to scrap the scheme, which was conceived in the aftermath of 11 September.

REGISTRATION ORDER
Introduced after 11 September attacks
Affects all males over 16 from a list of Arab and Muslim countries who do not have permanent resident status in the US
A 10 January deadline will affect men from Afghanistan, Lebanon, Eritrea, North Korea, Somalia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen
The programme is aimed at men from more than 20 Arab and Muslim nations who do not have permanent resident status in the US.

Critics say it is unlikely that the plotting terrorists the scheme is supposed to uncover would take part in a voluntary registration programme.

"No undocumented terrorist would come forward," said Peter Schey, president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law.

"The programme is being used as a scam to lure people into INS offices supposedly to register, when what they really face is arrest, detention and even deportation."

Later dates

The detentions have caused deep unrest within the Iranian-American community in California, with thousands taking to the streets last week in protest.

People in LA demonstrating against immigration detentions
Southern California has a huge Iranian community
California is home to about 600,000 Iranians who have been living in exile since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

California was among the first states where non-resident men from the Middle East were obliged to register.

Other states with large Muslim populations have been set later dates.


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20 Dec 02 | Americas
19 Dec 02 | Americas
18 Dec 02 | Americas
01 Oct 02 | Americas
27 Dec 02 | Americas
06 Jun 02 | Middle East
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