Board decries Patriot Act

In a nearly unanimous decision Monday evening, the New Haven Board of Aldermen passed a resolution condemning both the USA Patriot Act and the proposed Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, also known as The Patriot Act II.

Submitted by Ward 23 Alderman Yusuf Shah, the resolution urged the U.S. Congress to repeal parts of the Patriot Act that “infringe upon civil rights and liberties.” The statement will be sent to President George W. Bush, Attorney General John Ashcroft and both houses of Congress.

Citing the strength of U.S. military and law enforcement capabilities, Shah said it was unnecessary for the government to curtail personal freedoms in the interest of national security.

“We don’t have to be afraid of any issues that will come up as long as we stand together,” Shah said. “Our civil liberties should not be shaved one bit.”

Ward 18 Alderwoman Arlene DePino, the only Republican on the board, was also the only member of the board who voted against the resolution. While DePino acknowledged that there may be room for reform of the Patriot Act, she said that these changes should be made within the court system, specifically referring to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared one provision of the act unconstitutional.

Alex Yergin ’07, a vice president of the Yale College Republicans, said his party was disappointed that the resolution was passed.

“We feel that the Patriot Act has been a very important piece of legislation in protecting this country,” Yergin said. “It has given law enforcement the proper tools to deal with terrorism, and I think a lot of the criticisms of the Patriot Act come from a misunderstanding of the bill.”

Yale College Democrats President Nirupam Sinha ’05 heralded the decision as a sign of public opposition to the act and said he hoped such actions would lead the government to modify the bill.

“I think we just need to make sure we have an act in place that does its job but also does that job without violating people’s rights,” Sinha said. “I think what the Board of Aldermen did is certainly indicative of what a lot of people feel.”

During discussion of the resolution, both Shah and Ward 16 Alderwoman Migdalia Castro related stories of feeling singled out for searches at airports because of their name or appearance.

“It’s very uncomfortable feeling that you have to wait longer than everyone else,” Castro said. “As a human being, there [are] regular liberties that one must have.”

Passed soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the USA Patriot Act broadened government and law enforcement powers in terrorism cases, including a provision that allows for indefinite imprisonment of foreign nationals without trial. The Domestic Security Enhancement Act, legislation drafted by the Department of Justice, would expand some of the provisions in the original Patriot Act. Both acts have drawn sharp criticism from civil rights advocacy groups.

At Monday’s meeting, the Board of Aldermen also considered a resolution urging the government to take immediate steps to end the war in Iraq. The resolution was tabled for future consideration by the board.

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