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Highlights of ACLU-NJ Work to Defend Freedom in the Age Terrorism

December 2001

  • The ACLU-NJ represents anti-war protestors in a challenge to the city of Pleasantville's permit requirements for people who wish to engage in free speech activities on public property. In October, the Peace & Justice Coalition was denied a permit to hold a rally on a public sidewalk in protest of the bombing of Afghanistan. Pleasantville's policy on issuing permits has provisions that violate free speech rights such as allowing the city government unfettered discretion for rejecting applications and requiring citizens to purchase insurance.
  • Our Immigrant Workers Rights Project (IWRP) has advised families of World Trade Center victims and their attorneys on how to access death benefits. Many were initially denied benefits because they did not have Social Security Numbers or other evidence of citizenship. IWRP is also staffing an Immigrant Information Table at the World Trade Center Family Assistance Center, providing advocacy for victim's families and displaced workers who have questions regarding immigration issues.
  • We helped secure legal representation for over ten detainees in the Hudson & Passaic County Jails. These men, like most of those taken into custody in reaction to the terrorist attacks, are being held on immigration violations and facing deportation. In addition, IWRP has provided assistance for several individuals and their families who have been held without charges in federal detention as “material witnesses.”
  • In October the ACLU-NJ co-sponsored a Community Forum in Paterson for social service workers and members of the public to provide information about how to handle interactions with law enforcement and what benefits are available to victims' families. The meeting also included discussion of a coordinated response to bias attacks and coalition building.
  • The ACLU-NJ sent a Freedom of Information Act request to all New Jersey County Prosecutors to inquire about the reporting of bias crimes since September 11. We seek to evaluate the frequency of complaints and learn more about what kind of responses complainants have received.
  • The ACLU-NJ has written to police departments around New Jersey to discourage their participation in the FBI dragnet interviews of 5000 middle eastern men and provide information about state and federal constitutional law that prohibits such discriminatory practices.
  • The ACLU-NJ has distributed thousands of copies of its new publication, “What to Do If You're Stopped By the Police, the FBI, the INS, or the Customs Service.” The pamphlet is distributed in English, Spanish and Arabic, and other translations are in development.
  • The ACLU-NJ is working with a statewide immigration policy network in monitoring and responding to proposed legislation affecting immigrant communities, including anti-terrorism statutes and legislative proposals changing license and documentation requirements.
  • ACLU-NJ staff members are speaking about anti-terrorism measures at numerous forums around the state and working in community coalitions to generate coordinated responses to measures that threaten civil liberties principles.

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