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Iranian-Americans protest immigration policy

About 2,000 Iranian-Americans protested outside a federal building in west Los Angeles on Wednesday.
About 2,000 Iranian-Americans protested outside a federal building in west Los Angeles on Wednesday.

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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- About 2,000 Iranian-Americans protested outside the federal building in west Los Angeles on Wednesday to denounce a new immigration policy that they say has resulted in the unfair detention of immigrants.

The demonstration was peaceful, and police reported no arrests. Most protesters carried signs such as "Detain terrorists, not innocent immigrants." Another sign read: "What's next? Concentration camps."

Protesters were demonstrating against a Justice Department policy implemented after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks that requires men 16 and older who are not citizens to register with U.S. immigration officials if they're from one of more than a dozen mostly Muslim and Middle Eastern nations, including Iran.

Kayhan Shakib, the president of the Iranian-American Lawyers Association, which helped organize the protest, said the Immigration and Naturalization Service was ill-prepared to handle the hundreds of people who went there to register, resulting in the unnecessary detainment of individuals.

"We believe that these individuals who are being detained are not being treated humanely," he said.

Shakib said the process, which ordinarily takes between one and three days, is now lasting more than a week. More than 150 men of all ages are detained in any one holding area with capacity for far fewer, he said.

"It is reported that there is not enough room for the detainees to move, walk, or sleep," Shakib wrote in a statement.

Protester Jay Sarshar said people "were incarcerated without any notice. That's totally unconstitutional."

Demonstrator Patrick Megardan accused immigration officials of gross misconduct in their treatment of some people.

"Once they got there, they separated them, they detained them, they chained them, and they took them to undisclosed locations. And we think this is truly a disgrace," he said.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles INS office said the agency is asking men 16 and older who come from one of 18 countries to register.

"The only time the INS detains anyone is if they have violated INS law," spokesman Francisco Arcaute said.

Such violations include overstaying visas and being criminal aliens. Failure to register, Arcaute said, might lead to deportation.

The Justice Department has said that so far, the registration has been a success. During registration, the men are photographed, fingerprinted and interviewed.

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