In light of the escalating violence and terror, a Patriot Act forum was held at UIC on February 10, 2004. Post 9/11 has had everlasting effects on the lives of people worldwide. In particular, communities in the United States now face oppression in the worst form, by their own government.
“To deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes.” This is the first line of the Patriot Act, which came into law on October 24, 2001. By means of invasion and doubt on its own citizens the United States is enforcing this law everyday as we speak. However the reality of this extreme and unconstitutionally flawed law did not hit home for a handful of UIC students until they attended the Patriot Act forum, which was hosted by a the South Asian Progressive Collective, Campus Anti-War, the Office of the Student Trustee, UIC Radio, the Int’l Socialist Club, and the Muslim Advocacy Network.
Aleena Sheik, a UIC student, and Nicholas Rashod, an activist from the South Asian Leader of Tomorrow (SAALT), attended this forum to educate students about the Patriot Act through their experiences. Sheik, a Muslim-American woman, faced intense obstacles when her husband was thrown in jail in February 2003 upon special registration at the U.S. Department of Inland Security. He suffered accusation and insults for two days by jail guards. A fine of $7,500 was posted on Shiek’s husband. Despite this, it took a year for Sheik’s husband’s deportation case to be cleared. Sheik, in the meantime, did not sit around and wait she took action immediately by going to the Illinois Immigration Coalition. They help her fight the legislation that violated the fundamental human rights of her husband. By going to the Immigration Court case, in five months Sheik changed the fate of her husband. Now, Sheik stands up for her civil rights and those of others. She hopes that her husband’s story is voice of reality for others. U.S Congressperson Judy Vigor and Chicago Public Radio also aided Sheik in her statement of righteousness.
Finally in December 2003, special registration in the INS ended. After violating rights of 83,000 people in twenty-five countries the U.S. still hasn’t found terrorist, but is so proficient in terrorizing its own citizens. Sheik claims that the Patriot Act equals discrimination and that racial profiling does not help.
Rathod, from the South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow, is a civil rights attorney in Washington, D.C. He knows the effects of the Patriot Act well as he deals with cases of victims of the Patriot Act continuously since late 2001. In particular, he concedes that the law targets particular communities in the United States. Actions by U.S. Homeland Security have had twenty-five men integrated, 100 individuals in Los Angeles have been detained, people have been put in refugee camps, and numerous other acts have been made as well that defy civil liberties of American citizens. Many Pakistani men are coming to the U.S. for a better life but instead they now face harsh conditions, sometimes no better than their native country, by the very government that so passionately seizes other countries into their hand in the name of democracy. Rashod also noted that the U.S. government has marginalized immigrant communities. So, SAALT is starting a nationwide voter registration program to have south Asians vote on a block. By electing candidates that are opposed to the Patriot Act, their voices can be heard more clearly.
In response to the infringement of basic rights of individuals in the United States, the students who attended the Patriot Act Forum are ready to step up and take action to make it clear that the Patriot Act must be removed from the books. So, the various organizations are ready to emplace a petition to make a resolution that is a part of the national student action to oppose the patriot act. UIC will be only one of the many institutions will be a part of this movement. In months to come, UIC will witness incredible protest against the many injustices facing our country and worldwide. In fact, this Friday, other groups on campus are holding another Forum. In a few short months, during the celebration of Asian American Awareness Month the South Asian Progressive will be hosting an event, which depicts the pros and cons of globalization.