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Collateral Damage? Impacts of the War on Terrorism on the Rights of Non- combatants

Laura Danielson, Fredrikson & Byron

Sam Myers, Myers Thompson, P.A.

July 17, 2003


Full Outline, Collateral Damage? Impacts of the War on Terrorism

on the Rights of Non-combatants


Summary of Remarks

Laura Danielson and Sam Myers argued that noncitizens have become the unintended victims of the U.S. government's war on terrorism.  Legal changes, the reorganization of agencies dealing with immigration issues, and shifts in institutional culture toward a "don't be wrong" attitude have created a context in which the individual rights of noncitizens have been abrogated with few legal remedies and no meaningful administrative appeal. 


Arguing that the secret and indefinite detentions of immigrants on the basis of immigration violations decreases rather than increases the nation's security, Danielson and Myers contend that the government is alienating the very communities it believes has information on terror-related activity.  According to Danielson and Myers, less than 10% of the noncitizens detained in the U.S. on immigration charges by the federal government have been charged with crimes, while none have been charged with terror-related activities.  The result is that immigrant communities are living in fear and individual immigrants - like teachers and reporters - who are innocent of criminal and terror-related activities are caught in an administrative web without access to legal counsel.  They are, in effect, collateral damage in the U.S. war on terrorism.


But noncitizens are not the only victims of the war on terror, according to Danielson and Myers.  They charge that noncombatants, including U.S. citizens, also suffer the consequences of racial profiling, invasions of privacy, and the denial of due process to individuals detained by the government as "material witnesses" or "enemy combatants".  For example, several areas of the PATRIOT Act passed by Congress in October 2001 threaten constitutional and civil rights of noncombatants.  These include the ability of the executive, without review, to name terrorist groups and to detain individuals without charge or cause based solely on their belief that the individual may be involved in terrorist activity. 


Even more concerning, according to Danielson and Myers, are the threats to individual liberty and constitutional rights that would be authorized under the proposed Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 (dubbed PATRIOT Act II), which include stripping Americans of citizenship, further impedes due process, and authorizes the removal of immigrants to nonrecognized countries. 


The real question is, say Danielson and Myers, "Have the forces of terror won a significant battle already by forcing our government to deny civil rights in an effort to protect us?"


How can this collateral damage be diminished?  Danielson and Myers suggested that the U.S. government should:

·         Engage in smarter law enforcement;

·         Reduce secrecy;

·         Examine war related justifications and the use of the President's war authority; and

·         Closely monitor law enforcement so that no processes persist indefinitely without conclusion.



Laura Danielson established her own practice in 1989 and is now the Department Chair of the Immigration Group at Fredrikson & Byron, practicing exclusively in immigration law.  She has taught immigration law at the University of Minnesota Law School for the past 6 years and is a frequent speaker at national immigration law conferences.  Laura served on the Board of Directors for Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights and has represented numerous Minnesota Advocates' clients in asylum matters.  The Immigration Group represents a broad range of clients, including multinational corporations, small employers, foreign artists, entertainers, athletes, engineers, scientists, medical personnel, and other professionals.   With affiliate offices in various international locations, Laura and her group handle complex consular visa processing cases as well as matters for expatriate U.S. citizens living overseas.  They also assist individuals in cases involving family immigration, political asylum, and naturalization. 


Sam Myers is a 1972 graduate of the University of Virginia Law School.  He is a cofounder of the Minneapolis-based law firm, Myers Thompson P.A., a firm with a national immigration law practice.  Mr. Myers is a former two-term president and five-term board member of the International Institute of Minnesota.  He is a former six-year Board Member of the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, where he served as a mentor to direct service-attorneys representing pro bono asylum clients.  From 1985 and 1991 he served as an adjunct professor of law with the William Mitchell College of Law where he taught a pro bono immigration law clinic, which he co-founded.  He has been a guest lecturer, for many years, at Professor David Weissbrodt's and adjunct professor Laura Danielson's University of Minnesota School of Law School class on Immigration Law.  He was a cofounder of the Minnesota-Dakotas Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).  He is a permanent Board Director of AILA and, from 1991-1992, served as AILA's President.  In 1992, he founded, and serves as Chair of, AILA's Board of Publications.  Between 1992 and 1999, he served on the Board of Trustees of the Immigration Law Foundation and served as Chair of that Board between 1994 and 1998.


Related Materials

Bibliography related to PATRIOT Act I and related Immigration Practices and Proposals


Migration Policy Institute (MPI), Report entitled, "America's Challenge: Domestic Security, Civil Liberties and National Unity after September 11"