On April 28, the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) screened its new documentary, Americans on Hold: Profiling, Prejudice, and National Security. The Center’s first film project, inspired by a 2007 CHRGJ report, examines and exposes the U.S. government’s use of discriminatory profiling in the name of national security, and its widespread impact on the human rights and dignity of numerous communities across the country.
In an April 27 Huffington Post op-ed, Professor Smita Narula detailed the issues confronted by the film. South Asians, Middle Easterners, Arabs, and Muslims, Narula wrote, are regularly profiled, questioned, harassed, delayed, and detained as a result of U.S. counter-terrorism and immigration policies. The problem is compounded by the government’s use of databases and watch lists that include countless individuals who have never been suspected of any wrongdoing, according to Narula. “At the root of this abusive treatment is a patchwork of discriminatory and ineffective immigration and counter-terrorism policies that turn individuals into suspects based on little more than their name or the place where they were born,” Narula wrote. “These policies make entire communities more vulnerable without making any of us safer.”
Americans on Hold tells the stories of Zuhair Mahd and Anila Ali. Mahd—a blind adaptive technologies specialist from Jordan whose naturalization application was delayed as a result of the FBI name-check process—waged a five-year legal battle against the Department of Homeland Security in his effort to become a U.S. citizen. In the process, he was repeatedly interrogated and pressured by the FBI to become an informant. Ali, a teacher, mother, and community organizer originally from Pakistan, received her American citizenship in 2002, but continues to experience humiliating and invasive treatment by Customs and Border Protection officials as a consequence of her national origin.
“Targeting people for discriminatory treatment on the basis of their race, religion, or national origin is quite simply a violation of their human rights,” Narula wrote in the Huffington Post. “Just like other kinds of racism, it’s also inconsistent with American values of fairness, justice, and equality.”
Watch a clip of Americans on Hold:
Posted May 3, 2010