President’s Message by: Susan Leedham
Our Stake in Comprehensive Immigration Reform
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has been in the news a lot recently. Normally this is just an act that enables Congress to monitor the budget for the Department of Defense, but the 2012 version includes a provision authorizing President Obama, and all future presidents, to order the military to pick up and indefinitely imprison people, including US citizens, so long as the government calls them terrorists.
So despite the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of a right to a trial, this Act would let the government imprison any citizen it suspects of being a terrorist without the burden of proving guilt before an independent judge.
Many believe this Act violates the US Constitution and international law because it is not limited to people captured in an actual armed conflict as required by the laws of war. We are in this "War on Terrorism," which does not have a defined battlefield, enemy or length of time.
This started after 9/11 when President George W. Bush and Congress enacted the Patriot Act which allowed the government to search phone and financial records and monitor the activities of anyone the government suspected of being a terrorist. This was unsuccessfully challenged on the grounds that this is a violation of the Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful search and seizure. And now the NDAA went a step further by allowing the government to imprison people for no other reason than being a suspected terrorist.
President Obama issued a statement that his administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens and will ensure that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war and all other applicable law.
But as stated above, this law does violate our Constitution, our civil rights and international law, and President Obama, as all other presidents, swore an oath to uphold our Constitution, not to enact laws that violate the Constitution and then promise he will comply with the Constitution. You can’t have it both ways.
What is surprising is that Congress is passing these laws when there should be an easy coalition of liberal Democrats not wanting to curtail civil rights and conservative Republicans and Libertarians not wanting to extend the power of the federal government.
The ACLU is advancing model state and local legislation for communities that want to ensure their state and local law-enforcement agencies, National Guard and government employees are never used to assist any US Military detention without charge or trial. They have a toolkit that you can encourage your city council to adopt and then send the message to Congress.
Thus far, other than the Occupy Portland Movement, no action has been taken locally to oppose the NDAA. Portland JACL will talk more about the NDAA at our Day of Remembrance on February 17.