With the refugee crisis ongoing and millions of victims of war, famine, and oppression seeking a safe place to stay, the United States has lagged far behind the curve when it comes to remaining the beacon of freedom and safe harbor of the world. While we have accepted some in, there is still much to be done. However, the fear of terrorism has led to many in the nation to fear allowing many in, especially those from Syria, for fear that there may be violent extremists sneaking in to do harm. While these fears have proven almost entirely unfounded, the prejudice and fear that come with them have led to many Americans favoring draconian measures that would seem outdated in a forward-thinking society.
Sadly, these fears have made it all the way into the FBI, who is now using strongarm tactics to force the families who have fled here to violate the civil rights of their friends and neighbors. This extends far beyond those who are refugees from war-torn nations and seems to be targeting Muslims in general. In something that sounds like it could come from the extremist camps of those like Donald Trump, the FBI is demanding that Muslims spy on their fellow Muslims and report their findings to the FBI.
This may be somewhat understandable if they were targeting people with known terrorist ties or, at the very least, fit the profile of an actual terrorist. But it seems that it is simply a case of religious and racial profiling — with the threat of deportation if immigrants and refugees fail to violate the rights of their peers.
One such case was broken by Buzzfeed, in which they discovered that if someone had no information to offer they would be penalized. That’s right, if there was nothing to report, it was demanded that they find some or face consequences that could include being sent back to the nations they had escaped.
In the Buzzfeed case, one particular software engineer (who chose to remain anonymous, for fear of retaliation) has been in the United States for over 20 years. He has a family and works a typical job. So when he was dragged into the FBI office and subject to interrogation, he was extremely confused — and terrified.
Not only is this questionable from an ethical standpoint, it is flat out unlawful. It is illegal for the government to use immigration status as a means of threat or incentive in order to obtain information on others.
Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez agrees, pointing out that even though it’s illegal, there are ways around it. It seems the immigration department can simply make the process move a little slower than it needs to, allowing the FBI to move in and pressure innocent people into providing information, whether said information even exists being beside the point.
So while the United States wages the war on extremism around the world, our own government seeks to use the same types of tactics that are in use by those we are supposed to oppose. And with many Americans giving in to cowardice and fear, willing to shred the Constitution and the civil rights of their friends and neighbors, (be they new neighbors or old) practices like this are likely to continue.