Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft has signed an order giving FBI agents and U.S. marshals authority to arrest people on immigration violations, a power that initially will be used to detain several dozen Iraqis suspected of posing a wartime threat.
The order took effect Feb. 28, the last day that the Immigration and Naturalization Service and its enforcement laws fell under Justice Department jurisdiction. The INS ceased to exist the next day, when it was folded into the Department of Homeland Security.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the Ashcroft order will further the impression among many U.S. Muslims and Arab Americans that the government is singling them out.
Ashcroft's decision, confirmed by two law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, gives more than 11,000 FBI agents and several thousand marshals arrest powers that had been reserved for INS and some customs agents.