Saturday, May 21, 2011

Napolitano orders probe at border concerns of Muslims

Department of Homeland Security Napolitano has launched an investigation into allegations that federal agents at several U.S.-Canada border crossings in Michigan repeatedly harassed, jailed and body searched Muslims because of their background or appearance. In a letter sent this week to a local Muslim group, Margo Schlanger, the head of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in the Department of Homeland Security, said her office has received accounts of "repeated handcuffing, brandishing of weapons, prolonged detentions, invasive and humiliating body searches at the border, and inappropriate questioning that pertains to religion and religious practices."

The investigation is in response to complaints filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations with the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. The council is concerned that agents are even asking people about their prayer schedules. Muslims, Arab Americans, south Asians and other minorities have complained for years about being harassed at border crossings.

"It really makes you feel humiliated," said Wissam Charafeddine, 34, of Dearborn, who says he gets repeatedly jailed at the border. "It doesn't make you feel like you're in America." He's a 34-year-old married man with two daughters, no criminal record and a solid job as an assistant principal in Detroit Public Schools.

But every time Wissam Charafeddine has crossed the border into the U.S. from Canada in the last three years, he says he has been detained, fingerprinted and body searched -- "where every part of the body is touched and squeezed" -- while agents peppered him with questions. One time, he said, he was separated from his family and jailed in a cold cell for five hours as his 1-year-old daughter cried for milk.

The last time he crossed the border, on Dec. 5, he said he was detained for almost four hours, from 12:20 a.m. to 3:48 a.m., after agents searched his entire body and went through everything in his car, including his cell phone.

It's an experience other Muslim-Americans say they have also faced. They say they're innocent victims of the government's war on terrorism for the past 10 years, and they want it to stop. Now, the U.S. government has launched a probe into complaints from local Muslims, including Charafeddine. Charafeddine coaches youth soccer, was a Scoutmaster for five years with Boy Scouts and has lived in the U.S. since 1995. But despite that, he said agents have mistreated him each of the 10 to 15 times he has crossed the border since November 2007.

Each time he's detained, he said he gets scared because "you don't know what's going to happen. You have to face the unknown. It's just psychologically torturous. "Why do I have to be treated like a terrorist?"

I may surprise many of you when I say that I think it is good to investigate these complaints and to take actions to stop the abuse. Don’t get me wrong, I support the Border Patrol and its efforts to keep us safe but there are reasonable limits. These particular actions by a handful of Border Patrol and Customs officers appear to go far in excess of those limits. In this country we enjoy certain freedoms. An American citizen should never be detained simply because they do not “look American”. That is stupid. No one “looks American’ and yet everyone “looks American” –that is because we are a nation which encompasses everyone –and we are supposed to be proud of that fact.

It is also stupid for another reason. The more we target “Muslim looking” people, the more the terrorists will try to look non-Muslim. And that means there will come a time when the Border Patrol will be harassing a poor Middle Eastern guy while the real terrorist (a native born American) slips by unnoticed.

Suspicious behavior and not physical or racial appearance should be the thing being watched and checked –and if you don’t believe me, ask the Israelis, they have been doing better than we do for years.

Oh, I got up extra early this morning because I wanted to tune in for live coverage of the end of the world. It seems several "prominent" clergymen (church/religion unspecified) have predicted that today would be the beginning of the rapture and the resulting end of the world. I would obviously not want to miss that.

I know this because it was covered by both ABC and FOX News (slow week, I guess). Anyway, these same clergymen predicted the this event a couple of years ago but apparently miss calculated -well, nobody is perfect, right? So this morning I am switching between ABC and FOX waiting for the live reports to start. --I wonder if it will be "earthquakes in divers places" or "the nations will start raising against nations" first?

Live Long and Prosper....

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