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Department of Justice Focus on Arab "Absconders" Raises Question of its Consistency with Civil Rights Division Guidelines
by Carl R. Baldwin

An article in the Washington Post on January 8, 2001 described the policy of the Department of Justice to implement the apprehension of "absconders" (aliens who have received and ignored final orders of deportation), and to focus on young Arab men before all others.

The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee promptly stated its opposition "to all measures that codify racial, ethnic or religious discrimination in government policy, including immigration policy." Its president, Ziad Asali, stated that "the government has every right to try to deport persons who should not be in this country, but it is unconscionable to proceed with this effort based on a hierarchy of concern that is ethnically defined.This is extremely troubling, since, as a society, we are committed to non-discrimination and equal justice under the law." It is interesting to observe that these principles are the ones that the Department has promulgated in an outline from the Civil Rights Division entitled "Your Rights and What You Can Do to Prevent or Respond to Discrimination." The opposition of the Division to ethnic or religious discrimination is made clear, for example, by its "Information for Air Travelers," giving answers to questions concerning air travel by people who are or appear to be "of Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian descent and/or Muslim or Sikh." Unfortunately, the advice that the Civil Rights Division has given to the Department of Transportation is not directed to the INS.

Alien "absconders, to be sure, are a disfavored group, and the INS is fully justified in apprehending and deporting them. But ethnic targeting by government is a "slippery slope," and a non-discriminatory policy directed to "any and all absconders" would be wiser.

About The Author

Carl R. Baldwin graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1980, and became a member of the New York State Bar a year later. He worked for three years with the New York City Law Department, and then entered solo practice in immigration law, which he has continued to the present. His work with clients has included asylum applications, deportation defense, visa processing, adjustment of status, and naturalization. He has also worked to implement special laws, such as the 1986 "amnesty" (The Immigration Reform and Control Act), and the 1998 Haitian reform act (The Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act). Mr. Baldwin is the author of Immigration News Monthly. He can be rached by e-mail at

He has written a book on immigration law, called "Immigration Questions and Answers," 1997, Allworth Press, 10 East 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010 (212) 777-8395. The book, which contains essential background information about how the immigration law works, can be ordered in both an English Edition and a Spanish version from