Concern about the state of civil liberties brought together a broad coalition of groups yesterday in the Michigan Union Ballroom to discuss the potential threat caused by recent anti-terror legislation.

Shabina Khatri
Haaris Ahmad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations speaks as a panelist at a forum on civil liberties in the Michigan Union Ballroom yesterday.

The event, titled “Know Your Rights,” featured Nabi Hayad from the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, Haaris Ahmad from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Noel Saleh from the American Civil Liberties Union, Layla Hanna from the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and Rackham student and Graduate Employees Union member Alyssa Picard.

GEO President Daniel Shoup said the event was organized out of concern for the rights of graduate student instructors.

“We’ve had anecdotal evidence from a number of different sources that there have been a couple of (Graduate Student Instructors) that have been stopped at the border and not allowed to reenter the U.S. from Canada,” he said.

Shoup said GEO is concerned about new policies that have been pursued in the aftermath of Sept. 11, especially the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001.

“It’s something that’s a concern to international GSIs and GSIs in general, but also the larger community,” Shoup added.

The panel opened with Ahmad, who outlined the effects of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, which gave law enforcement expanded intelligence abilities and surveillance of non-citizens.

“Under this act, immigrants are to be detained indefinitely for extended periods of time if they are viewed as a threat,” Ahmad said. “This wasn’t the case before.”

Ahmad expressed concern that the act was applied beyond its original purposes and cited the example of Rabih Haddad, a local Muslim community leader who was arrested in December 2001 and still remains detained on charges of a visa violation. In addition, he was accused of having ties to terrorist organizations.

Ahmad also discussed the potential effects of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 or “Patriot II,” which he said would further increase surveillance powers of the federal government, take away immigrants’ rights and could give the government the ability to remove citizenship from people because of their political affiliation.

“It’s very scary to see that this could happen,” Ahmad said about the proposed bill that would allow the government to strip even native-born citizens of their U.S. citizenship. “We don’t even do this to capital murderers,” he added.

Hayad described the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s new National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, which requires immigrants from certain countries to go through a special registration process with the INS.

Engineering sophomore Maher Iskandar said the event was meant to inform everyone of their rights. “Whether they are citizens, residents or activists, they have rights and they should be aware of them,” he said.

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