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Enemy Aliens: Double Standards and Constitutional Freedoms in the War on Terrorism.

By David Cole, The New Press

As the quagmire in Iraq deepens, the debate over national security has focused almost exclusively on U.S. foreign policy. Overshadowed are domestic policies of the war on terrorism. Georgetown Law Professor, David Cole, cogently argues that we ignore the implications of such policies at our own peril.

The war on terrorism at home has been largely prosecuted against immigrants, using the immigration system, rather than criminal courts, as its primary weapon. Cole draws from both personal experience as a civil rights attorney and historical analysis to illustrate the concept that immigrants are like the miner's canary. The denial of constitutional protections to foreign nationals is a harbinger of the loss of rights and liberties for American citizens. Cole goes further to explain that when repressive policies infringe upon citizens' rights, "the political and legal processes react, and only then are they seen as mistakes." The overwhelming opposition to the USA-Patriot Act, which has ramifications for all American residents, juxtaposed with the relative silence about policies such as special registration or the roundup and questioning of thousands of Arab and Muslim men, illustrates this reality.

Enemy Aliens also debunks the notion that such policies improve real security for anyone. Cole explains that none of the thousands of immigrants who were detained after Sept. 11 have been connected to Sept. 11. Nevertheless, most were detained indefinitely, subject to secret proceedings, and deported, primarily for minor immigration violations. Such discriminatory roundups weaken the legitimacy of the American government, which undermines its ability to gather information and obtain cooperation to prevent future attacks. At the same time, U.S. military invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq produced an unprecedented level of anti-American sentiment around the world; the targeting of Arab, Muslim, and Middle Eastern residents within the U.S. has only added fuel to this fire.

What Enemy Aliens fails to do is help us understand the full implications of the war on terrorism on those whom it targets. At a lecture at UC Berkeley, Cole contended that special registration was unconstitutional because it singled out particular foreign nationals, rather than all immigrants. He replied affirmatively when a Latina law student questioned whether he thought the policy also should have been applied to Latin American immigrants. Such a policy would damage relations between the U.S. and its neighbors to the south, and undermine any overtures the Bush administration has made to Latino voters at home. Cole may have been arguing that if such xenophobic or discriminatory policies are extended to broader communities, they will meet much stronger resistance. What Cole failed to acknowledge was the fear and divisions such a policy would create within Latino families and communities.


Nor does Enemy Aliens explore the devastation that the war on terrorism has wreaked on Arab, Muslim and Middle Eastern families and communities in the U.S. Cole analyzes high-profile legal cases to illustrate questionable constitutional practices, without exploring their often catastrophic outcomes. In the meantime, the stories of thousands of families who have faced surveillance and harassment, indefinite detentions in squalid conditions, or deportation to dangerous places remain largely untold.

Enemy Aliens is laudable for making a clear case that the civil and human rights violations that immigrants have endured during the war on terror are egregious constitutional transgressions with global implications. The targeting of particular racial, religious, and ethnic groups will, like the Japanese American internment during World War II, be remembered as a shameful moment in American history. We can only hope to build broader resistance now before thousands more become its victims.

Reviewed by Will Pittz

Will Pittz is a former senior researcher at the Applied Research Center.
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Author:Pittz, Will
Publication:Colorlines Magazine
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 2004
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