CHICAGO – Noisy chanting pickets marched in front of the Immigration and Naturalization Center here Feb. 12 to denounce the jailing of Rabih Haddad, a Lebanese citizen charged with a technical visa violation. Authorities have also announced their intention to deport his wife and three of his four children

Haddad has been held in solitary confinement since being arrested in Michigan Dec. 14. Neither he nor his attorneys have been allowed to see the evidence that led to his arrest.

Haddad’s wife, Salma Al-Rushaid, is a Kuwaiti citizen and there is no guarantee that the family would not be broken up in the deportation process.

Haddad’s real crime seems to have to have been his connection to Global Relief, a Chicago-based Muslim charity, whose assets were seized by the government under civil forfeiture procedures. Under these procedures, presumption of innocence is not applicable and the government doesn’t have to give a reason for the seizure. Neither Hadad nor anyone connected with Global Relief have been accused of any criminal act.

At the time its assets were seized, the government’s only accusation against Global Relief was that it had provided financial help to poor people in Palestine and did not have a policy of excluding the widows and orphans of suicide bombers.

Detroit Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) has sharply denounced the arrest of Haddad and his family as a gross violation of due process.

“Attorney General John Ashcroft has made a mockery of our criminal justice system”, he said. “This sounds more like a dictatorship than America.” Conyers, the ACLU and others have filed suit to open the Hadad hearings to the public.

Secret hearings in deportation cases were authorized long before Sept. 11 under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

The demonstration was organized by the Coalition Against War and Racism, the Palestine Aid Society, the 8th Day Center for Justice and other Chicago-area peace and justice groups. Speakers included Jim Fennerty, Chicago Chapter president of the National Lawyers Guild, who denounced the fact that Haddad allowed only one phone call and one visit with his family each month.

Andy Thayer of the Coalition Against War and Racism pointed out the irony whereby Haddad, who is accused of no crime spending months in solitary confinement, while Enron exec. Kenneth Lay, whose actions have cost thousands their livelihood, walks free.

Emma Lozano of Sin Fronteras, a mostly Mexican immigrant organization, related the plight of Haddad and his family to that of Mexican immigrants through the decades: “As Mexicans, these actions are not new to us,” she said, demanding that the government charge Haddad if they have any evidence of criminal activity.

Lozano accused Ashcroft and President Bush of acting to frighten the foreign-born into silence on the government’s war policies. “Those of us who are born here better stand up and speak out, because later they’ll come for us too.”