America One Year Later
The Impact on Immigrants
Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, immigrants, foreign visitors and international students found themselves on one of the front lines of the War on Terror. Now, a year later, Alisa Solomon observes in The Village Voice that “it’s the liberties of noncitizens that have been most severely curtailed in the past year.” One Pakistani community in Brooklyn alone saw two planeloads of young men deported after being detained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Solomon writes. David G. Savage of the Los Angeles Times reports that Washington’s aggressive campaign to detain and deport Muslim men has been an investigative dead-end, with not one person charged with a crime related to the Sept. 11 attacks. But Savage says the administration is unlikely to be dissuaded by critics of the crackdown on visa-holders — largely because foreign citizens who violate any terms of their visas are left with few rights under US law. According to Thomas Ginsberg of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the crackdown on immigrants continues. The agency’s new push to document foreigners entering the country will allow officials to fingerprint and photograph any person fitting the Justice Department’s anti-terrorism criteria, Ginsberg reports. Not surprisingly, critics are predicting the new program will result in widespread profiling of Arabs and Muslims. Raymond Bonner of the New York Times reports such profiling is already underway. The Bush administration quietly imposed new visa regulations three months ago, Bonner reports, which allow for applications from men aged 16 to 45 from 26 Muslim countries to be delayed or rejected without additional cause. As a result, Bonner writes that officials in Washington will not have to review each and every visa application, resulting in a massive backlog. Mary Beth Marklein of USA Today reports that, as a result of new State Department screening procedures, hundreds of young men and women from Asia and the Middle East are being denied student visas.
Norton Explains It All
Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton joined the editorial board of The Christian Science Monitor for breakfast last week, pontificating on topics ranging from forest fire prevention to casinos on Native American reservations to global warming.
Norton on whether global warming has been scientifically proven: “The question of whether temperatures are rising I think is pretty well established. The question of how much that is caused by man as opposed to part of the continuing process of coming out of the ice age or natural fluctuations — there is less certainty about that.”
Norton on oil exploration in national parks: “There are an awful lot of situations where I have heard people say ‘Oh gosh, this is really close to a park’. Well, you know, anywhere in Utah is arguably close to a park and so you have to take with a grain of salt exactly what the contention is.”
Norton on using logging to fight forest fires: “Once we restore thinner forests, then we can maintain those more easily using fire. So fire can again become a better tool for us if we get rid of the overly dense undergrowth that we have today.”
Given the secretary’s opinion on forest “thinning,” it came as no surprise when Norton exempted such logging projects from the National Environmental Policy Act. Critics, however, have suggested that the Bush administration’s approach to thinning will result in a massive and largely unregulated give-away to the timber industry, as Dan Oko and Ilan Kayatsky reported recently on MotherJones.com.
America One Year Later
Arab America’s Time of Tumult
Soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, American newspapers were filled with reports of attacks on Arab-Americans and American Muslims. A documentary that aired on PBS last week, entitled “Caught in the Crossfire: Arab Americans in Wartime,” attempts to consider how Arab Americans have dealt with the backlash. But Samuel G Freedman of The New York Times argues that the documentary “explores only one facet of the dynamic: the Arab-American as victim.” Freedman says the program does little to explore the larger discourse about the state of Arab America after Sept. 11 — in which “precious little middle ground now exists between absurdly broad denunciations of Islam on the one hand and an equally absolute commitment to multiculturalism on the other.” Carin Chocano, Salon.com‘s TV critic, suggests the documentary may have been shaped by the precarious position Arab Americans presently occupy: “At times, you wonder whether the filmmakers aren’t protecting their subjects from voicing opinions that could come back to haunt them.”
BBC commentator Barnie Choudhury writes that, for the Muslim American community, “patriotism and loyalty are key questions at the moment,” and explains how the country’s Muslim community has been pressured to prove its allegiance to the US, or suffer condemnation and attack. Riad Z Abdelkarim and Jason Erb argue in The Detroit Free Press that one increasingly popular form of condemnation — the claim that Muslim Americans have failed to denounce the attacks and support the War on Terror — is baseless. “American Muslim and Arab-American organizations and leaders were among the first to react in an organized fashion to condemn the terrorist attacks on that very same day,” the two write.
Finally, two recent reports provide a more complex picture of how Arab Americans are faring. A recent Knight Ridder poll found that America’s perception of Muslim Americans has actually improved since Sept 11th. “In the new poll, 58 percent of respondents said they had favorable feelings toward Muslim Americans, up from 45 percent in the earlier poll,” reports The Miami Herald. Anayat Durrani of Arabia Online reports that many companies have also stepped up support of their Muslim employees, accommodating Muslim holidays and revising policies to allow for Muslim cultural differences.