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Separating Immigrants from Terrorism
by Cyrus D. Mehta

As our offices are located in midtown Manhattan, we have not been affected as those who work in the downtown area. However, we grieve for all the victims of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. We also hope that our clients and readers who worked in the World Trade Center are safe and those who lost their lives, we offer our heartfelt condolences to their loved ones.

The World Trade Center Twin Towers symbolized what New York is all about. People from just about every nationality went to work in the two buildings. They represented a microcosm of the world, like New York City, where different ethnic communities have co-existed peacefully despite animosities back home. Last year, the American Immigration Law Foundation honored five outstanding New York-based women immigrants at the Marriott Hotel in the World Trade Center. We feel a great sense of loss that these visible symbols are not around us any longer and so many people have needlessly lost their lives.

Although terrorism should be dealt with appropriately one must think twice before linking immigrants to terrorism. Immigrants are as patriotic as everyone else and equally upset as everyone else about the dastardly attacks.

We are hearing reports of immigrants being killed, attacked and abused with racial slurs. These attacks are being reported from places outside Manhattan, far away from the disaster zone. Apart from being totally unjustified, people should realize that many immigrants from the nationalities that have been attacked also perished in the disaster.

It is hoped that the tragic events of September 11 do not lead to irrational anti-immigration laws and restrictions. Remember the draconian immigration laws of 1996 followed closely on the heels of the Oklahoma bombings, which did not involve foreign terrorists. In hunting down a few terrorists, America must not go after all immigrants. There are proposals to introduce legislation that would make it easier to detain and deport immigrants. Let us hope that these laws would have adequate safeguards to protect those who have had no involvement in terrorist activities.

Immigration is good for America. There has been a realization of the positive impact of immigration, as evidenced by the recent negotiations between Presidents Bush and Fox to regularize the flow of Mexican workers who have jobs in the US. It is important to remember that immigration still continues to be good for the US, just as it has been wonderful for New York City, symbolized now by vaporized towers.

About The Author

Cyrus D. Mehta, a graduate of Cambridge University and Columbia Law School, practices immigration law in New York City. He is a trustee of the American Immigration Law Foundation and recipient of the 1997 Joseph Minsky Young Lawyers Award. He is also Chair of the Immigration and Nationality Law Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. He frequently lectures on various immigration subjects at legal seminars, workshops and universities and may be contacted at 212-686-1581 or