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ACLU Denounces INS Detention of Chinese Boat People and Mounting Hysteria
For IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 10, 1993
NEW YORK -- The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) joined other
immigrants' rights organizations today in denouncing the Immigration and
Naturalization Service's (INS) detention of more than 200 Chinese
immigrants who arrived in New York by boat this past Sunday after a
grueling 100-day voyage. In addition, the ACLU denounced the INS and
others for using the incident to whip up anti-immigrant hysteria and for
denying the immigrants their basic legal rights.
"The INS has arrested and jailed these individuals, denied them
access to attorneys and others who seek to help them, and most recently,
has transferred them to more remote detention centers where they will face
even greater obstacles obtaining the legal assistance to which they are
entitled," said Judy Rabinovitz, staff counsel for the ACLU's Immigrants'
Under current INS policy, individuals with credible claims to asylum
are supposed to be released from detention while they pursue their claims.
But INS has decided to arrest and detain the 250 Chinese boat people to
serve as an example to others.
Ms. Rabinovitz described her own efforts to obtain access to
detainees being held at the Service's Varick Street detention center
before they were transferred to detention facilities in Pennsylvania,
Virginia, and Maryland. "We wanted to speak with the detainees before
they were moved out of New York," Ms. Rabinovitz explained. "But when we
arrived at Varick Street on Monday night, June 7th, we were denied entry.
First we were told to present `bar cards' -- something I have never been
asked to do in all my years of visiting detainees at Varick Street.
Indeed, to my knowledge such cards don't even exist. Then we were told
that we would need to provide names of specific detainees. Then, when we
did provide names, we were simply told that attorneys were not being
Ms. Rabinovitz later questioned INS Assistant District Director
Edward McElroy about this policy, only to be told that INS was protecting
the detainees from unwelcome visits by attorneys. "Yet while we were
being denied entry, several of the detainees were being interviewed by
television cameras without ever having had the opportunity to consult with
counsel," Ms. Rabinovitz said.
Ms. Rabinovitz also charged the INS and others with manipulating the
recent incident to foster fears of uncontrolled immigration and support
for their political agenda of radically altering U.S. immigration and
refugee laws. "Increasingly, immigrants are being portrayed as a threat
to our way of life," she said. "Yet the real threat comes not from
immigrants and refugees or from recognition of the legal rights to which
they are entitled, but from allowing these exaggerated and xenophobic
fears to become the basis for immigration policy."
She noted that this kind of unthinking fear of "outsiders" has
historically led to even greater denial of legal rights, such as the
internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the current spate
of anti-immigrant violence in Germany. "It is tragic that similar fears
are now being used to punish a group of immigrants whose only crime has
been to flee conditions that the U.S. government itself has gone on record
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