Academic journal article Texas Journal on Civil Liberties & Civil Rights

The Civil Rights of "Others": Antiterrorism, the Patriot Act, and Arab and South Asian American Rights in Post-9/11 American Society

Academic journal article Texas Journal on Civil Liberties & Civil Rights

The Civil Rights of "Others": Antiterrorism, the Patriot Act, and Arab and South Asian American Rights in Post-9/11 American Society

Article excerpt

I. Introduction

I woke up early on the morning of September 11, 2001, 5:45 AM PST, to get some studying in before class, and as I logged onto the Internet, I felt the terror that had already consumed the Eastern part of the United States. I turned on my television set just in time to witness the second plane crash into the World Trade Center (6:03 AM PST). The shock and dismay I felt as I watched the two buildings collapse and then stumbled through my classes need not be elaborated upon here, for it was the same feeling that engulfed the entire nation.

The object of this paper concerns what happened after this tragedy, and what the aftermath means for the hundreds of thousands of Arab and South Asian American citizens residing in the United States. Over the next several days, my feelings of remorse turned to apprehension as I heard the word "terrorist" uttered repeatedly in television newscasts and pictures of Osama bin Laden began popping up everywhere. I had been sheltered from excessively overt racial prejudice while living in the East Bay Area of California, yet I knew that these media associations could have terrible repercussions for people of Arab and South Asian ancestry in the United States during such an apprehensive period. My fears increased on September 15th when I heard that Balbir Singh Sodhi had been murdered at his gas station in Mesa, Arizona.'

Sodhi's murder was one of eleven that followed the September 11th attacks. More than seventeen hundred other acts of hate violence were perpetrated against those who appeared to be of Arab and South Asian descent.2 Each additional hate crime 1 heard about increased my fear that the very society that I had months earlier felt was the most tolerant and pluralist in the world would take out its anger on its own citizens (specifically, those of Arab and South Asian descent) who, like other Americans, had worked hard to help make this country the economic superpower that it is today. Although my extreme fears of Arab and South Asian American internment largely did not become a reality, something frighteningly close did: the USA Patriot Act of 2001. At this point, it should be mentioned that the amendments of the Patriot Act (with the notable exception of sections 203(a), 203(c), 205, 208, 210, 211, 213, 216, 219, 221, and 222) are subject to the Sunset Clause encapsulated in section 224 of the Act, which renders all stipulations of the Act ineffective on December 31, 2005.3

The Patriot Act flew through both branches of Congress after being submitted by the President on September 24, 2001.4 Signed into law on October 26, 2001, The Patriot Act (officially termed the "Uniting and Strengthening America By Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001") was sought by the Bush Administration, the CIA, and the FBI to capitalize on the post-September 11th fervor that engulfed the nation. Specifically, the Bush Administration wanted to facilitate the evidence-gathering procedures of the CIA and FBI and expedite the prosecution of suspected terrorists in this national security crisis.

These were the explicit short-term goals of the Patriot Act. However, this paper is about the long-term legal and social ramifications of the Act. I contend that the Patriot Act has undermined many of the fundamental constitutional rights of Arab and South Asian Americans, and should serve as a reminder to American minorities of the tenuousness of their civil liberties in the United States. My argument will proceed in three parts.

First, I will briefly outline and analyze the provisions of the Patriot Act that jeopardize American First, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment civil liberties, specifying how those sections are either directly or indirectly targeted at Arab and South Asian American citizens. Second, drawing from research conducted by social science race theory and Critical Race Studies, I shall demonstrate how specific American minority groups have been isolated from their African American counterparts and categorized as "aliens" or "others. …

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