Today we pause to remember the tragic events that took place 12 years ago. No matter how many years pass between us and September 11, 2001, it forever remains a vivid memory in our minds and hearts. It stays with us as constant reminder that bad things happen to good people. That tragedies we hear about happening across the globe can take place at home too. That we as a nation are not immune from acts of hate directed towards us from within, and abroad. Of course we also realized that our vulnerability as a nation correlates directly with our love and unity, because as much sorrow we experienced, 9/11 also drew us closer and strengthened our resolve. It made us appreciate the fragility of life and reminded us to be humble. It reminded us of how much we as Americans have to be proud of, the extent of our values that need our protection.
And in the years just after 9/11, we recall the aftershocks that shook us to our core. That trampled over the very essence of our identity as a “land of the free”. The civil liberty violations in the name of national security were overlooked by some and justified by most. However others of us were not fortunate to have the luxury of ignoring them. Our last blog post by our Partner Danielle Conley is a perfect example. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) somehow succeeded in covertly developing and implementing a program now known as CAARP (“Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program”). This program uses religion and national origin to in essence “blacklist” individuals seeking immigration benefits. Dubbed by some as “Muslims Need Not Apply”, this program was one of 9/11’s aftershocks, denying and delaying applications for citizenship from otherwise eligible members of the Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian communities. Law abiding, tax paying citizens striving to take the oath and pledge allegiance to the United States are discriminated against blatantly yet secretly, by a program not even authorized by Congress. Members of these communities as well as the immigration attorneys that represent them knew this program existed, but most of us just didn’t realize the baby was given a formal name until the report recently published by the ACLU SoCal that uncovered the program and dissected it here for the world to see.
12 years after the earthquake and we still feel the aftershocks. The PATRIOT Act is still alive and well. Thanks to the NSA we can all take it for granted now that our phones are tapped and our emails are checked. It makes me wonder whether our America is the same America our forefathers dreamed of and strived for. It raises the question whether the very efforts we implement to secure us ultimately redefines us, beyond recognition.
A dozen years later and we can now say that we successfully learned two lessons:
1) We have enemies abroad that “hate us for our freedom”
2) Sometimes we can be our own enemy by yanking our freedoms out from their roots in the name of preventing the weeds.
Ben Franklin is often quoted as saying: “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.” As a proud American and fervent defender of our Constitution, I pray and hope that our actions protect both because we cannot afford to lose either.