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Assaults on Asian American Immigrants in Wake of Terror Attacks Show us at Our Worst
by Carl R. Baldwin

Since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the response of citizens of the United States has been both noble and compassionate, and ignoble and hateful. One civil rights organization has kept a sort of catalogue of the assaults on immigrants and it makes disturbing reading.

The organization is the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), and its web site (") has an upsetting recital of incidents of hate and violence directed against immigrants. One dreadful incident that was well reported in the press involved the shooting death of a Sikh gas station owner in Mesa, Arizona on September 15, 2001. But the death of another Sikh man in California a few days later was not so extensively reported. Then there were dozens and dozens of incidents involving stabbings, beatings, death threats, and no end of verbal abuse. The perpetrators of the abuse include local police in some instances and a Delta Airlines pilot who ordered a passenger off the plane just because he was Pakistani and someone thought he looked like a terrorist. The AALDEF listing recounted seventy-eight incidents in eighteen different states and the District of Columbia. The AALDEF list covers only a one month period, from September 11-October 11, and so is by no means complete and up to date. But it is sufficient to be extremely sobering. The victims of the violence and abuse were Asian in origin: Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Bangladeshi, Sikh, Indian, Pakistani.

It is evident that the terror attacks have brought out the best and the worst in people, and peaceable immigrants are among the victims. Awareness of the abuse of immigrants and the new INS rules facilitating the detention of foreign citizens has prompted AALDEF, in a “Community Advisory” dated December 6, 2001, to advise immigrants who intend to go abroad to “consult and retain an immigration attorney, and if necessary a criminal defense attorney” before finalizing travel plans. This, I think, is very good advice, and should facilitate an untroubled return to the United States.

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 reached 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