ACLU Calls Immigrant Registration Program Pretext for Mass Detentions

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Thu Dec 19 20:40:52 MST 2002

ACLU Calls Immigrant Registration Program Pretext for Mass Detentions

December 19, 2002


WASHINGTON - In a development that confirms the American Civil
Liberties Union's initial fears about a controversial immigrant
fingerprinting and registration program, the Immigration and
Naturalization Service is apparently using the program as a pretext
for the mass detention of hundreds of Middle Eastern and Muslim men
and boys.

"Given the evidence, there is no alarmism in saying this is a
round-up," said Lucas Guttentag, Director of the ACLU's Immigrants'
Rights Project. "Attorney General Ashcroft is using the immigrant
registration program to lock up people who already have provided
extensive information as part of their green card applications," he
said. "Therefore the purpose is clearly not to get information but
rather to selectively arrest, detain and deport Middle Eastern and
Muslim men in the United States."

According to media reports covering growing protests against the
detentions, up to 700 Middle Eastern and Muslim men and boys were
arrested in Southern California by federal immigration authorities
after they voluntarily complied with a new program that mandates the
fingerprinting and registration of all male visitors 16 years and
older from certain Middle Eastern countries. It remains unclear how
many others have been detained across the country, but reportedly a
full one-quarter of all those who complied with the program were
arrested in Los Angeles.

The men detained are all from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya and the Sudan,
the five countries whose visitors to the United States were required
to register with the INS by December 16.

In most cases, it is apparent that the INS arrested men who were
simply waiting for approval of their green card applications, or
those with minor visa problems caused by incompetence in the agency
itself, which has been plagued by an inept bureaucracy for years. In
but one example, the San Diego Union Tribune reported on July 27,
2002 that the agency recently failed to process more than 200,000
change of address forms and then unceremoniously dumped them in the
largest underground records facility in the world - an abandoned mine
near Kansas City - putting hundreds of thousands at risk of wrongful
arrest and deportation for failing to report a change of address.

The ACLU also questioned the effectiveness of the program, given the
enormous outlay of resources necessary to engage in detentions on
this scale.

"The INS is wasting an incredible amount of government resources in
rounding up these men and boys," said Dalia Hashad, the ACLU's Arab,
Muslim and South Asian Advocate. "It seems unlikely that a hardened
terrorist is going to voluntarily register with the government," she
added. "What is more likely is that law-abiding people who were
planning to register will now be afraid to come in because of the
arrests, and the INS will use that as an excuse to deport them."

By January 10, 2003, citizens of 13 additional countries -
Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North
Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen
- must also submit to registration, a move that could push the
detentions into the tens of thousands, the ACLU said.



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