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Friday, December 20, 2002
 
What's going on in California

Glenn Reynolds may be correct -- he probably is -- that the recent immigrant related arrests in California have been legal. That doesn't make them right.

Reynolds makes three major points:

(1) "This is hardly the Japanese-American internment revisited." Well, it is and it isn't.

These Middle Easterners are being treated like they are for no other reason than where they're from. That's how it's like Japanese-American internment. It wouldn't be surprizing to read something about these Middle Easterners in California that sounds something like: "we cannot reject as unfounded the judgment of the military authorities and of Congress that there were disloyal members of that population, whose number and strength could not be precisely and quickly ascertained. We cannot say that the war- making branches of the Government did not have ground for believing that in a critical hour such persons could not readily be isolated and separately dealt with, and constituted a menace to the national defense and safety, which demanded that prompt and adequate measures be taken to guard against it." That's from 1943, however, not 2002... Kiyoshi Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U.S. 81 at page 99. (Aside: We all gotta remember, the Supreme Court repeatedly ruled that what was happening to Japanese-Americans was constitutional.)

We can all agree, from the President to Glenn Reynolds to me, that the vast majority, if not all, of the people being asked to register do not in any way pose a threat to this country. But they're all -- every male visa holder over 16 from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria -- being forced to register. Instead of singling out a group of people (like was done to the Japanese-American community and to this community), there is an easy way around this. Make every male visa holder in the United States register with the INS. If you're from India, Ireland, Germany, Korea, China, or Iraq. It doesn't matter. Make the man working at a greengrocer in Queens, the man working at an interstate motel in Knoxville, the man on a fellowship at Cal Tech. It doesn't matter. Instead of just some, let's treat all immigrants like foreigners. Hardly the American way, but it would be fair.

(2) "These guys are all charged with being in violation of some immigration rule or another." This rationale is a cop-out. What about all the non-Iraqi/Libyian/Sudanese/Syrians who committed the same crimes? They're not being arrested. Are their crimes any less serious? Unless you believe that only Iraqi/Libyian/Sudanese/Syrians overstay their visas.

(3) "Inviting people to show up voluntarily for fingerprinting and then arresting a bunch of them seems to me to be a strategy that only works once. If the Feds knew that, then do they have some unstated reason for cracking down on illegal immigrants from Middle Eastern countries in these places and at this time? Possibly. This may be yet another small sign of coming war, and a preemption effort aimed at catching terrorist sleepers." Yeah, the terrorist sleepers are going to turn themselves in. That part isn't the reason. Reynolds equivocates at the end: "The other possibility, of course, is that the Feds are idiots, and that's one never to be discounted, especially where the INS is concerned." Another possibility is that they know exactly what they're doing and it has nothing to do with sleeper cells.

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