The extent of the power the government claims it can wield over immigrants would raise serious alarms about endangering democracy and constitutionality if applied to U.S. citizens.
Indeed, the struggle to delineate a set of rights for immigrants in post-September 11 America showed clearly in Judge Gleeson's search last week for solid ground on which to certify formallyor dismissthe detainees' lawsuit. He peppered both sides with questions about how long and under what circumstances they thought detainees could be imprisoned. Generally, he wrestled with pinpointing the extent to which officials can deprive noncitizens of the constitutional due process and equal protection rights that Americans enjoy as a guarantee.
photo: Jennifer S. Altman
Activists challenge the government's power to detain immigrants indefinitely.
His ruling on the government's motion to dismiss the CCR class action suit is expected in the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, with the next registration deadline for Muslim visa holders looming January 10, some immigrant groups and lawyers are calling for the government to terminate the mandatory registration program altogether. If it continues, it is unclear whether spooked immigrants will stay away and risk criminal charges and deportation, or show up and risk detention anyway.