On October 1, the Chicago City Counsel voted to pass a resolution condemning the USA PATRIOT Act, becoming the largest city in the United States to show its contempt for the Ashcroft-Congress brand of patriotism.
As reported by attorney Noah Leavitt, with Chicago’s Jewish Counsel on Urban Affairs, Aldermen Helen Shiller (Ward 46), Joe Moore (Ward 49), Freddrenna Lyle (Ward 6) and Ricardo Munoz (Ward 22) introduced a resolution to the City Council supporting Chicago’s immigrant population and condemning the excesses of the USA PATRIOT Act. The resolution “reaffirms the rights of all people living within the City under the U.S. Constitution and calls for the City to work for the repeal of the Act and associated Executive Orders which violate our fundamental rights and liberties. City Council passed the resolution at this morning’s meeting.”
Chicago Arabs and Jews, represented by the Jewish Counsel on Urban Affairs (JCUA) and the Muslim Civil Rights Center (MCRC), worked together to get the resolution passed. Said Rasheed Ahmed, President of the MCRC, “This is a huge victory for all people who care about civil rights. As Muslims, we feel the sting of suspicion and the fear of a knock on our doors. The practice of guilt by association, perpetrated against American Muslim and Arab-American communities, undermines the fundamental meaning of the Bill of Rights and sets the legal precedence for the same fate for all Americans. The nefarious USA PATRIOT Act is leading to the creation of a second tier justice system that could be used against any American for political purposes and weakens the fabric of our democratic society.”
Jane Ramsey, Executive Director of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, shared these. “We at JCUA are proud to be counted on the side of people who have spoken out against this violation of our fundamental rights. As Jews, who are so familiar with the immigrant experience and the unfortunate suspicions placed upon ‘outsiders,’ we understand the need to protect those who are not yet citizens. We also recognize that the PATRIOT Act threatens the Constitutional rights and freedoms of all of America’s residents – citizens and non-citizens alike. Today’s PATRIOT Act is reminiscent of other infringements on civil liberties in America’s history such as the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and the Red hunts of the McCarthy period in the 1950s.”
The USA PATRIOT Act compromises the civil liberties of all Americans, but particularly affects Muslim and Arab-American communities. In Chicago, large numbers of immigrant workers have been arrested on numerous occasions, including in raids at O’Hare and Midway airports as well as the Sears Tower. These raids have led to the detention and deportation of many Latino immigrant airport workers.
A joint statement released by JCUA and MCRC indicates that violence against Arabs in Chicago increased from four in the year 2000 to 60 in the year 2001 to 124 last year. The PATRIOT Act, it reasons, poisons Chicago by creating a climate of xenophobia, distrust, and paranoia. It alienates the very communities that could provide crucial assistance to our national security and law enforcement bodies.
Because of the PATRIOT Act’s broad scope and its many negative effects, communities across the country are joining together to voice their opposition. Three states and more than 160 municipalities from 28 states –approximately 20 million people– have passed resolutions criticizing the Act. Similar efforts are underway across the country.
ELAINE CASSEL practices law in Virginia and the District of Columbia, teachers law and psychology, and follows the Bush regime’s dismantling of the Constitution at Civil Liberties Watch. She can be reached at: email@example.com