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Feds prepare to arrest Iraqis illegally in U.S.

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posted on Mar, 21 2003 @ 05:19 AM
Feds prepare to arrest Iraqis illegally in U.S.

Feds prepare to arrest Iraqis illegally in U.S.


Citing wartime security concerns, teams of federal agents fanned out Thursday across the United States to arrest Iraqis who are in the country illegally.

Between 3,000 and 7,000 Iraqis nationwide, including an unknown number in South Florida, are targeted for arrest, according to a federal government source.

About 300,000 Iraqis live in the United States, mostly in California and Michigan. South Florida is home to a few thousand Iraqis, according to local immigration attorneys.

There were no immediate reports of arrests in Miami-Dade or Broward counties, but Tammy Fox-Isicoff, a prominent immigration attorney, said FBI agents showed up at a Broward County legal aid office Thursday afternoon demanding an Iraqi national's South Florida address.

The announcement of the roundup came hours after the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed that Attorney General John Ashcroft has given FBI agents and U.S. marshals power to arrest foreign nationals on immigration violations.

The order significantly broadens their authority; previously, only immigration officers had arrest powers in immigration cases.

It is the latest in a string of federal policies the administration says is needed to protect Americans but many civil libertarians say are sowing fear and anger among Muslims.

''This is just the latest . . . put forward by this administration and Ashcroft that single out Muslims and Arab Americans for special treatment,'' said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, D.C.

But FBI officials said the new arrest powers are meant to help Homeland Security agents, not to ferret out undocumented migrants.

''Under FBI policy, agents are authorized to use these powers in the context of urgent circumstances of counterterrorist investigations,'' said John Iannarelli, an FBI special agent in Washington.

Officials said the new powers will be used sparingly.

''It's a tool that will be used only on rare occasions,'' said Judy Orihuela, an FBI spokeswoman in Miami.

But several initiatives in recent months have provoked a backlash among Muslim activists and immigrant advocates.

In November, the Justice Department ordered immigration offices around the country to fingerprint, photograph and interview male Iraqis and male visitors from more than 20 Asian countries.

Since then, hundreds of nationals have been arrested on immigration violations when they showed up to register and are facing deportation. The deadline for male Pakistanis and Saudis to register expires today.

Earlier this week, the Homeland Security Department announced that people who request asylum from countries where al Qaeda and other terrorist groups operate will be detained until their case is decided.

On Thursday, the department said it would begin arresting Iraqis identified using a range of intelligence information.

The agency said the move was ``aimed at taking individuals off the street who might pose a threat to the safety and security of the American people.''

© 2003 The Miami Herald and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.


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