It is quite understandable that in the aftermath of terrorist attacks on a nation, that the government would take the necessary measures to ensure its people’s security. It is therefore imperative for society to recognize that what may be unreasonable in time of peace and security may be reasonable in time of war and fear. But how far should our leaders go to ensure our safety? It is in this light that close examination of the USA Patriot Act should be seen.
This Policy taken in the name of homeland security can easily be regarded as unconstitutional in nature. It is quite evident that this Act undermines the very ideals on which American democracy is built. In fact these policies are limited on many levels and do not necessarily achieve the objective of preventing terrorism; rather it imposes limitations on civil liberties. And it is these limitations, which widely affect our entire society and its people, ranging from our immigrants to our own US born citizens.
This paper hopes to give insight on where some of these attacks on our constitution exist. An attack that has left almost no element of lives and its guaranteed freedoms untouched. Immigrant rights have repeatedly been infringed on since September 11 because of the discriminatory nature of the “USA Patriot Act”. For instance, Section 412 of the Patriot Act permits the attorney general of the United States to detain aliens he merely assumes are threats to national security for up to seven days without bringing charges (CCR 11).
Interestingly enough, in the event that the immigrant is charged with “any” crime he/she can be held for a period of indefinite detention. This “limitless” period of detention is maintained regardless of whether the charge is of a terrorist nature or not. Which means that even a minor visa violation is held as a justifiable reason for detention under the Patriot Act. This is a clear violation of the Eight Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment such as indefinite detention (Bergen).
Furthermore, this section also defies the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment, which is entitles all persons within the US (including non-citizens) to the due process and the equal protection of the laws (ACLU). Critics like David Cole of Georgetown University Law Center, regard the Ashcroft detentions as unconstitutional. Cole expressed his feelings toward the policy by declaring that, “we have violated core constitutional principles, … ” (Rosen 2).
For example, the case where more than 1000 immigrants were detained after 9/11 without any probable cause to justify their detention was clearly inconsistent with the constitution. According to a Report issued by the Center for Constitutional Rights concerning the “State of Civil Liberties” after 9/11, “… detainees were held without being told of the reason for their detainment. Of 718 cases the government had disclosed, 317 were brought before a judge more than the mandated limit of 48hours after arrest (CCR 12).
This is a clear violation of the liberties of immigrants and is discriminatory in its every essence. In a similar light the article goes on to declare that, “… Thirty-six individuals were provided hearings more than 27 days after arrest, 13 after more then 40days, and 9 after 50days. In at least one case, a detainee did not see a judge until 119 days after being taken into custody (CCR 12). ” In addition to this Section 412 of the Act denies detained immigrants the important rights of access to appointed counsel and lawyer-client privilege (Cassel).
These infringements on immigrant rights are highlighted in the Center for Constitutional Rights, Senior Litigation Attorney- Nancy Chang’s analysis of the Patriot Act. Chang declares that evidentially, “Section 412 does not direct the Attorney General either to inform the immigrant of the evidence for which they are being detained, or to provide the non-citizen with an opportunity to contest that evidence at an Immigration Judge hearing or other administrative review procedure (Chang 8). ” These provisions significantly erode due process rights guaranteed to non-citizens under the Fifth Amendment.
According to the aforementioned report issued by the Center for Constitutional Rights, post 911 “detainees were sometimes subjected to coercive and involuntary interrogations, and many were not advised of their right to retain an attorney (CCR 12). ” These practices violate a fundamental principle of our judicial system – that no person should be subjected to arrest and imprisonment without reason, explanation, and due process of law. The Patriot Act doesn’t only trample on the rights of immigrants; it also contains unconstitutional elements that infringe ‘Native American’ civil liberties.
However, in the words of Mark Carallo, a spokesman with the Department of Justice, “U. S. citizens cannot be investigated under this act (Beeson and Jaffer 15). ” But, the “truth” is, Sec 215 of the Patriot Act allows the government to obtain upon request any records or tangible information of US citizens without probable cause (Riba 1). In essence this section allows the government to invade and threaten our privacy. And what makes this even more demeaning is the fact that they can intrude our lives without even providing evidence to justify the investigation.
According to the ACLU Report entitled the “Unpatriot Act”, in order to “obtain our personal records, … the FBI does not need to show that you are involved in Terrorism, directly or indirectly, … (Beeson and Jaffer 2;3). ” Elaine Cassel in the article named, ‘The Other War: The Bush Administration and the End of Civil Liberties’, gives the reaction of one librarian to the unreasonable nature of this intrusive provision. The author quotes the librarian as saying to a Washington Post reporter, “This law is dangerous . . . I read murder mysteries — does that make me a murderer? I read spy stories — does that mean I’m a spy? (Cassel)”