The INS Registration Deadline Arrives – Civil Rights Questioned

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On the one year anniversary of the 911 attacks, the U.S. government launched the National Security Entry Exit Registration System. This registration system targeted all adult male visitors from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria. In October of 2002 however, an additional 13 countries were added to this list of possible terrorist suspected countries.

Jan. 10th, 2003, was the final deadline for registration for all men carrying temporary visas that are citizens of the 13 “questionable” countries. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) office has requested this as a means of warding off terrorism. The men hold temporary visas in the United States for various reasons from education to employment.

This particular registration is part of a “second phase” for the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). This requirement only applies to males 16 years or older. Most individuals are students, individuals in the U.S. on extended business travel, or individuals visiting family members for lengthy periods. [1] The following men are permitted to stay in the U.S. without mandatory registration:

American citizens

Green card – Permanent citizen

Diplomats

Asylum applicants

Asylum grantees

Anyone admitted into the U.S. under “A” or “G” visas

The following countries are on the list:

Afghanistan

Algeria

Bahrain

Eritrea

Lebanon

Morocco

North Korea

Oman

Qatar

Somalia

Tunisia

United Arab Emirates

Yemen

According to the INS, non-immigrants that were in the U.S. before the 1st of October 2002, who planned to stay until Jan. 10th must still register. All men who are required to register will be photographed, fingerprinted and be entered into a database where they will then be checked for any ties to terrorism once they arrive to an official INS office. Anyone who is not prepared to register, forgot to register or refuses to register will be deported from the United States.

The INS made it clear a few weeks ago that failure to register will be considered a criminal offence and prosecution will be sought to all extent of the law. This unusual request by the INS has brought on lawsuits from civil and human rights organisations such as the ACLU.

“This whole thing is a round-up,” said Timothy Edgar, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Attorney General Ashcroft is using the immigrant registration program as a pretense to lock people up whose only offence was having their green card application get lost in the bureaucratic morass that is the INS.” [2]

Muslim and human rights organisations were appalled by this mistreatment and sought legal assistance to voice their opinion on this matter. They ask that the U.S. government either change this registration policy to protect the civil rights of Muslims and Arabs or discontinue it entirely. [3]

Racial profiling is recognised as a danger to the strength of democracy. The deadline may be January 10th, 2003 – but the lawsuits over civil liberties abuses will no doubt continue for some time to come.

Notes:

[1] INS Reminds Certain Temporary Foreign Visitors

[2] ACLU Urges Congress to Fully Investigate Ill-Conceived Immigration Registration and Detention Program

[3] Hundreds Protest Against Detentions in L.A. as Community Fears Rise

Anai Rhoads contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN).

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