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Pharaon Consulting Group, Inc. (PCG) is a consulting company that provides a range of psychological, coaching, and counseling services to individuals, couples, and groups. Founded in 1997 by counseling psychologist Dr. Nora Alarifi Pharaon, PCG is a US-based company with global outreach and focuses on these core offerings:

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  • * Psychotherapy
  • * Testing and Evaluation
  • * Coaching
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Homeland Security and Immigration Issues After 9/11

Dr. Nora Alarifi Pharaon
Urban Hazards Forum II
January 23-24, 2003
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
FEMA

Homeland Security and Immigration Issues After 9/11

Introduction: The Office of Homeland Security’s mission is to develop and coordinate the implementation of a comprehensive national strategy to secure the United States from terrorist threats or attacks. The Office collaborates with executive agencies, state governments, and private entities to detect, prevent, respond to, and recover from terrorist threats and attacks in the United States. While the Office of Homeland Security’s functions are necessary to combat and effectively deal with terrorist threats, these same functions have had a devastatingly negative impact on the fabric and continuity of immigrants’ lives, namely Arab Americans.

The USA PATRIOT Act’s enactment (October 2001) gave government agencies sweeping authority to interrogate, detain and hold suspects without charging them, powers that essentially curtail the constitutionally protected civil liberties in the interest of national security. A Brooklyn couple is held at gunpoint after the FBI, NYPD, and others broke down their apartment door. After an hourlong interrogation, they are released when it is ascertained that the man they are searching for lives two floors above. No apologies are provided for the abusive treatment, no remedies are presented for the traumatic experience.

The Transportation Security Agency (February 20020 followed on the heels of the USA Patriot Act, and took over the former role of the Federal Aviation Administration in providing airport and airline security, expanding to almost unlimited proportions, the powers of the Justice Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency and office of the Attorney General. Many men are asked to get off the planes after they are cleared by security checks simply because someone does not like the way they look or suspects that they are from the Middle East. Arab Americans in the community began likening their experience of flying as an Arab to the African American experience of driving while being black.

The Terrorism Information and Prevention System (TIPS), the most recent creation of the Justice Department, is perceived as a major assault on individual autonomy and has therefore been almost universally snubbed. The Patriot Act has gives the FBI and other law enforcement agencies the power to search private homes, sift through financial records and emails, and in definitely detain “suspected terrorists”. The TIPS program, initially introduced in 10 cities, extends its governmental arm to recruit truck drivers, letter carriers, and computer and telephone repair workers to report behavior that could be classified as related to terrorist activities. This New World Order serves to re-traumatize those who already have been traumatized in their original homelands. The Arab

American community has begun to question and remember the un-ending nightmare of a Police State, that they had once forgotten. Now, mistrust and paranoia lies in the heart of every Arab American community member. Family, friends, and extended support system bend beneath the weight of distrust, paranoia, and intense community anxiety.

Arab Americans are living a double terror: the terror of the 9/11 attacks that all Americans lived through, and then the terror within. Government policies put into place in response to 9/11 have severely impacted the civil rights of almost 60,000 American Muslims in a variety of ways. These include the detention of Muslims after 9/11, passenger profiling, the closure of Muslim charities, the use of secret evidence, raids on Muslim homes and institutions in Virginia and Georgia, and the so-called “voluntary” interrogations of legal visa holders.

Since 9/11, racial profiling has been focused on Arab Americans, Muslims, and immigrants. The government’s current policies have affected some 1,200 Muslims who were detained nationwide, mainly on immigration charges and many are still in detentions a year later. A Human Rights Watch August report confirms the violation of detainees’ rights and abuse suffered at the hands of the Justice Department. Furthermore, legal visa-holders are asked to submit to “voluntary” interviews that perpetuate the Arab American community’s paranoia and fear and an estimated 50,000 people have been affected who donated to American Muslim relief agencies that were shut down by the government.

There is a growing sense of apprehension in the Islamic community about what are viewed as unconstitutional policies targeting ordinary Muslims. American Muslims have been thrust to the forefront of the civil rights movement in this nation, and as the government continues to introduce new post 9/11 policies considered by many unconstitutional, the sense of apprehension in this community grows stronger. Moreover, American Muslims are even particularly vulnerable to bigotry because of the visually perceivable aspects of their faith such as five-times daily prayers, month-long fasting at Ramadan, beards for men and the wearing of the hijab (headcover) .

An August 21 poll by the Washington based group, CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, shows that more than half of America’s seven million Muslims—57 percent—admit to experiencing bias or discrimination since the Sept. 11 attacks, and a vast majority of the 945 respondents (87%), said they know of a fellow Muslim who has experienced discrimination.

Other studies have found that:

  • 48% of respondents said their lives changed for the worse in the year following the attacks; and
  • The most frequent forms of bias reported were verbal abuse, religious or ethnic profiling and workplace discrimination.
  • On a more positive note, the same poll indicates that more than three in four American Muslims, 79%, also experienced special kindness or support from friends or colleagues of other faiths.

In addition, American Muslims and Arab Americans have been the victims of a terrible wave of race-related job firings and violence. “The Justice Department reported a surge in hate incidents following the terrorist attacks, and the DC-based Council on American Islamic Relations alone has tallied over 1,700 as of February.” (Village Voice, 8/6/02).
Reports by Muslim, Middle Eastern and Arab employees of workplace discriminations continue to increase in the aftermath of the Sept, 11 attacks. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) documented rise in workplace bias, which was mirrored in a study by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The Washington, D.C.-based organization’s seventh annual study, titled “Stereotypes and Civil Liberties,” outlines 1,516 reports of denial of religious accommodation, harassment, discrimination, bias, threat, assault, and even several murders. That figure represents more than 2,200 individuals targeted because of actual or perceived religion and ethnicity. If post 9/11 backlash incidents are eliminated from the count, the remaining reports (525) still show a 43 percent increase over the 2001 study. About 20% of people say Arab Americans are the employees most likely to be treated unfairly in the workplace, according to a study by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. That surpasses the number who said women or Hispanic workers were most likely to be unfairly treated. David Grinberg, EEOC spokesman, points out that the 9/11 backlash continues beyond the reach of statistical measurement, adding that many workers discriminated against never file charges. Some employers have elected to take pro-active positive steps to prevent such experiences. Case in point: Recently, Educational Testing Service (ETS), a provider of private testing materials, held a seminar on Islam for employees at its Princeton, N.J. campus.

As a general proposition, there is nothing innately wrong with the INS’s plan to register and acquire the fingerprints of temporary visa holders in this country. It makes sense for the government to have as precise an idea as possible of who is here and where those people are living. However, it is illegitimate racial profiling to attach stricter conditions for visas for nationals of some countries than for others. However, the INS’s approach to the first wave of special registration is unjustifiably counterproductive, humiliating, and demeaning. Hundreds of people who showed up to comply, many of them in Southern California, were handcuffed and detained on minor immigration charges. Some of these people seem to have had merely technical problems and had already submitted paperwork to fix them. Somehow, a program intended to keep track of who was in the United States turned into another dragnet for trivial immigration matters unrelated to terrorism.

The bait and switch, which punishes and humiliates those who tried to follow the rules, only undermines the purpose of the registration process. It’s hard to imagine that this action will not discourage those with technical visa problems from showing up on later registration deadlines. If the government plays “gotcha” with the immigration laws, it might score a few deportations, but it risks guaranteeing that the database it is assembling remains woefully incomplete and the communities it seeks to reach out to are further estranged. That’s a bad trade-off.

The Special Registration for people from over 20 mostly Arab countries, promises to further alienate the very communities whose aid in the domestic war against terrorism is most essential. The Arab American Family Support Center was swamped with men who ranged in age from 16 to 80 years old during the week of January 6, 2003. They came in panic mode after they have learned about what happened to their counterparts in Los Angeles. Those who went on their own to register in compliance with the federal requirements came to the Center dazed and traumatized after seeing some people’s passports confiscated, other people taken for investigation, and still others detained. They did not know where to go to or what to do particularly that many of them had been living the American dream for 10-20 years and have lost any contact and connection with their homeland. Many of these men had been married and had US born children who never had any contact with their homeland’s culture. The state of mass confusion, fear, indecision, and paranoia exhibited by these men in attempting to decide if they should comply and risk deportation or avoid and become fugitives exemplifies the INS’s failure in implementing the registration process. Because of the unpredictable nature of the INS registration process, these men are faced with incredibly difficult decisions that could potentially have devastating effects on their individual lives as well as their families’ livelihood.

The INS headquarters at 26 Federal Plaza swarms with the faces of men, women, and children who fill the halls and waiting rooms of the 2nd floor. It is disturbingly haunting to see the panic and level of despair of brothers who are caught off guard while living the American dream. These men require all kinds of services that range from translation, to legal counsel, to mental health. The Center’s staff spend many hours every day of the week that sometimes extend through the early morning. They report many tragic life stories that encapsulate the drama of the Arab American immigrants post 9/11.

Legitimate law enforcement activity creates more than enough friction with Muslim communities, which understandably feel vulnerable in America after 9/ 11. Law enforcement simply can’t afford to gratuitously exacerbate this problem. Since Arab residents are afraid of being targeted by the police, they are hesitant to help them, even if they know something that could assist a counter-terrorism investigation. They don’t know where their name is going to end up. They might give their name and information they have and a few days later there is a knock on their door and they’re detained. The NYPD counter-terrorism tip line (888) NYC-SAFE, is also a cause of concern for Arab-Americans, who fear that anyone who holds a grudge against them can label them a terrorist and call them into the cops, who will arrest them.

Americans now have much to fear. Unlike many of our fellow Americans, the American Muslim and Arab American fear is twofold. Not only must we be wary of attacks by extremists on our government, our country and our way of life, we also must be fearful of our government itself with respect to our individual rights and private autonomy.

How do we protect our nation while preserving the very ideals of civil liberties and justice derived from our Constitution? How do we deal with fear of terrorism without continuing the tradition of US governmental repression that Arabs feel will someday resemble the interment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the McCarthy witch hunt of the 1950s against so called Communists leftists, and the COINTELPRO program of the 1960s directed particularly against black radicals? How do we help the immigrants continue the American dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? None of these questions have an answer. This nation ought to look twenty years from now with pride about its preservation of equality and liberty in the face of danger and not with shame about the oppression of its own countrymen. To get there, education is as good of a place to start from as any other. Perhaps then, knowledge and understanding of these detrimentally affected communities will encourage the implementation of governmental policies that embrace rather than alienate.

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PGC can help with:

  • Anxiety Disorders
    • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
    • Panic Disorder
    • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
    • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
    • Social Phobia
    • Agoraphobia
    • Binge-eating Disorder
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