The US Justice Department has identified about 6,000 Middle Eastern men who have ignored deportation orders and given their arrest top priority in efforts to find foreigners illegally remaining in the country.
The men are from nations that US authorities believes are strongholds for members of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network, said Justice Department spokesman Dan Nelson.
The plan to give priority to a group of Arab and Muslim men over other foreign nationals who have disregarded deportation orders has raised concerns among some immigrant advocate groups.
Most of the more than 300,000 people ignoring deportation orders are from Latin America.
Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Council on Civil Rights, said men of Arab or Muslim backgrounds opposed the move.
‘‘Obviously, these are highly sensitive times and nothing prevents INS from following leads to apprehend suspects, even if those leads include descriptions based on race or national origin,’’ he said.
‘‘But a dragnet approach to law enforcement - rounding up men based on national origin rather than suspicious behaviour or credible evidence - is highly questionable.’’