Austin Bill of Rights Defense

City officials and local law enforcement should not assist federal authorities in discrimination against immigrants, sneak-and-peek searches of people's homes, and other constitutionally questionable activities, say members of the Austin Bill of Rights Defense Committee. The group, a subcommittee of Austin Against War, plans to lobby the Austin City Council to pass a resolution similar to those already approved in over 20 municipalities nationwide, including Denver, Flagstaff, Detroit, and Ann Arbor.

Coordinator Mac McKaskle says group members are distributing petitions and lobbying council members to get such a resolution on the agenda. He says two council members have expressed interest, including Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman. A council resolution might "improve the cases" of people who believe their civil liberties have been violated under Homeland Security legislation, executive orders, and the USA PATRIOT Act by sending a message that such laws won't be tolerated, he said. "People are just very angry and upset," he said, "but they're also scared and they don't know how to change something that's so big. People are opposed but not very optimistic about getting things back where they belong."

McKaskle says the feds' actions have hampered the committee's efforts to recruit local Middle Eastern and Arab Austinites. "People are scared. There's a very literal meaning of the term ... When people are scared to speak in their own country, it's terror." In recent weeks, the feds' ethnic profiling has caused protest nationwide, most notably after reports of mass arrests in Los Angeles of Middle Eastern immigrants who voluntarily came to an INS office in order to comply with post-Sept. 11 regulations.

For more on the national Bill of Rights Defense Committee, visit; to contact the Austin chapter, e-mail

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