The Justice Department has asked local authorities throughout the nation to help in an effort to interview 5,000 men about the Sept. 11 attacks. The men are targeted because they are 18 to 33 years old, have non-immigrant visas dating from Jan. 2000 and are of Middle Eastern or south Asian descent. The Portland, Ore. police department is the only department that has explicitly refused to comply, citing municipal statutes that consider these sorts of actions to be unlawful.

In Michigan, U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Collins has decided to comply with the Justice Department sending out letters to more than 800 men asking them to interview with law enforcement officials. Yesterday, the University received a letter from the U.S. attorney”s office seeking cooperation from DPS, stating that at least one University student was being investigated.

During Attorney General John Ashcroft”s confirmation hearings, he condemned racial profiling. “I certainly would like to find a way to be absent that kind of practice. It”s wrong, inappropriate. It shouldn”t be done.” While this view was overwhelmingly accepted before Sept. 11, it has since become inconsequential to many.

But racial profiling, besides its overt discrimination, has proven to be a totally ineffective use of resources. When a broad group is systematically pursued by authorities limited manpower and time is wasted with little benefit.

Many states and local jurisdictions have laws that explicitly prohibit the interrogation of individuals who are not suspected of a crime. In Oregon, public support has been solidly behind the Justice Department. This creates a difficult situation for law enforcement, where they are criticized for following constitutional state laws.

The targeting of immigrants is also dangerous because they are often unaware of their civil liberties. While a federal agent arriving at the home of an immigrant is certainly more imposing and frightening than a letter, the letter introduces more subtle methods of intimidation. The letter neglects to state that a lawyer can be present at the interview or that immigrants with visa violations can be turned over to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The Muslim Student Association is planning on hosting a forum to inform any students who are summoned of their rights. The American Civil Liberties Union is attempting the same thing on a broader scale, but the Justice Department has denied giving the ACLU any information about who will be called.

The letter is unclear concerning any possible punishments faced by those who refuse to come forward for the interviews. While Collins says participation in the interviews would be voluntary, he refused to state what form of action he would pursue against those who refuse the request. Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent John Bell, however, said visits to the homes of those individuals would be likely.

The willingness to allow such violations to occur is a chilling indication of the U.S. government”s increasing willingness to disregard the basic precepts on which it is founded. The University must refuse to comply with federal authorities, or else risk losing its integrity.

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