New York July 1st
2002 -EDISON: Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., defended U.S. policy
toward illegal immigrants and urged recent immigrants to help ease Pakistan
and India's roiling conflict at a meeting with Pakistani-Americans
Members of the approximately 50 person audience, which included Pakistan's
ambassador to the United Nations, praised Torricelli for reaching out to the
Muslim community, but many pressed for more action to protect Pakistani
immigrants -- including those here illegally -- and asked for the U.S.
intervention in Pakistan and India's dispute over Kashmir."None of these
people (detained and deported) were in the United States legally.
There's no right to be here illegally," Torricelli said of the U.S.
treatment of illegal immigrants, but many members of the audience accused
the U.S. government of unfairly singling out Pakistanis."Out of those 40,000
(illegal Pakistani immigrants), none of them were involved in the Sept. 11
attacks or any mass illegal activities, yet they are being deported by the
plane load," said
Khalid Luqman, president of the East Brunswick-based Pakistan Center
USA.Other immigrant groups had not been subject to the same scrutiny, he
said.Azim Mian, a former Iselin resident, said detained Pakistani-Americans
had been denied due process.With their nation aiding the U.S. war in
Pakistanis should be treated favorably, Zahid Ghani said."The U.S. should
have announced amnesty for illegal Pakistani immigrants," he said.
Torricelli acknowledged that "defeating the Taliban would have been
impossible" without Pakistan's aid, and he pledged to defend
Pakistani-Americans from unfair harassment while standing up for the
deportation of illegal immigrants.
The meeting, which was scheduled to include Pakistan's ambassador to the
United States, Maleeha Lodhi, was a chance for members of the
Pakistani-American community to express some of their newfound political
concerns."(Sept. 11) was a wake-up call. Before 9/11, most of us were not
involved in the political arena," said Mahmud Haq, a South Brunswick
resident who emigrated from Pakistan.
The discussion also focused on events in Asia, where Pakistan and India's
dispute over control of the region of Kashmir has brought up the specter of
nuclear war."Nuclear war must never be fought on the subcontinent. The war
would be too horrific. The casualties would be in the millions," Torricelli
"The United States community and international community must find a
solution that is just and fair." But Torricelli did not elaborate on what
the answer might be and said it has been "difficult" for the United States
to influence the region.
"We need a policy saying these (nuclear) weapons are not going to be used,
and I ask you to think about that because the Pakistani-American community
has a lot of influence in Pakistan," he said.Mian accused the United States
of "having a romance" with India and urged more action in favor of Pakistan,
while Munir Akram,
Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations, said U.S. involvement is
"absolutely" needed to end the conflict."India and Pakistan have never
resolved problems bilaterally," said Akram, who sees resolving the Kashmir
conflict as the first of three steps to ease tensions.The discussion ended
with a call from one member of the crowd to end poverty as a way of fighting
terrorism."If I could get any message across, this would be the message,"
Torricelli said, "the war against terrorism must be a war against poverty.