AMV/BTN/PAA launch fresh campaign
Second round of INS registration begins in November
(Note: The American Muslim Voice has come to know that when people are calling the Immigration offices to inquire about the INS Registration, they are told that there is no registration but it is a re-registration of those who called in the first round of registration.)
Three civil rights organizations have started a new campaign against the INS Special Registration as the second round of INS Registration begins in November when nationals of 24 Muslim countries will be required to do annual registration in groups.
The American Muslim Voice, Blue Triangle Network and Pakistan American Alliance are demanding an explanation from the Justice Department as to why the same people from the same country are required to re-register this year. The AMV, BTN and PAA is urging the Justice Department to stop the INS Special Registration, which is pure racial profiling.
We are making an open call to all concerned fellow Americans, organizations, media, peace and justice groups, interfaith organizations, academia, students, labor unions, and legislators to please join in our effort to make this a nationwide campaign against the oppression of Muslims, Arabs and South Asians.
For a second time, these people will be exposed to the risk of new bureaucratic and paperwork problems which will result in their being secretly detained indefinitely and deported even if they were not detained during the first round.
The INS Special Registration came in four stages.
Group 1 included all 15 years or older male citizens or nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria who were required to register by 17 December 2002. This deadline was later extended to February 7, 2003.
Group 2 included all 15 years or older male citizens or nationals of Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen, who were required to register by January 10, 2003. This deadline was later extended to February 7, 2003.
Group 3 included all 16 years or older male citizens or nationals of Pakistan or Saudi Arabia who were required to register between January 21 to February 21, 2003. This deadline was later extended to March 21, 2003.
Group 4 included all 16 years or older male citizens or nationals of Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, or Kuwait who were required to register between February 24, 2003 and March 28, 2003. This deadline was later extended to April 25, 2003.
These people were finger printed and photographed. They were supposed to provide their home and work address, bankcards, departmental store cards, Social Security number and driving license number. Anytime they change their address or job, they are supposed to notify the INS. They were told to re-register before their registration anniversary date.
The INS regulations also required these people to re-register and put an exit stamp on their passport when they leave the country. These people are allowed to leave or enter the country only from specific entry points.
On December 17 2002, the last day of the group one registration deadline, hundreds of people from the Middle Eastern countries were arrested by the federal immigration officials in Southern California (for minor visa violation) when they complied with orders to appear at the INS offices for the special registration program.
Of the 82,880 from those 25 nations who registered with immigration offices, more than 13,000 face the possibility of deportation, mostly because of visa violations. Of those who registered, 136 have been classified as "criminals" by federal officials, and 11 have been detained as suspected terrorists, according to immigration. Government has refused to divulge their names, nationalities or any information about their alleged terrorist ties.
INS Special Registration Program has failed to achieve its professed goal. It has not helped in boosting our national security but alienated and persecuted a whole community. It is a flawed program. According to the Migration Policy Institute report, despite the INS Registration, many of the September 11 terrorists would probably be admitted to the United States today since most had no previous criminal, terrorist, or immigration records.
This program is unjust, unfair, unethical, un-American and totally ineffective to achieve its professed goal, which is to catch terrorists. On the nationwide Hotline, I received one common comment that, “no terrorist is going to walk into the INS office. We are hard working and law-abiding residents of this country. Why are we being targeted and treated like common criminals?” This program has created a culture of anxiety, humiliation, anger and total despair. We need to replace it with a culture of hope and faith.
The AMV/PAA has established a hotline in August to help Pakistanis, Muslims and Arabs to assist in re-registration. The AMV toll free hotline (1-866-490-8900) is working from 9 am to 11 pm Pacific Time every day. It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in case of emergency.
Pakistanis and Muslims are urged to take legal and expert advice before going for re-registration. I can refer to the case of a young Pakistani student from Lahore, Hassan, 19, who was detained for one day when he went for registration in February, was recently given one year visa extension after his case was properly handled by the AMV/PAA. His brother Ahmad Amin, 17, was also given one year stay. Not only these brothers were provided legal advice but their plight was exposed in the mainstream media that contributed to the reconsideration of their case by the Immigration officials. Re-registration of Pakistani nationals will begin in January next.
Note: The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is now called USCIS, United State Citizenship and Immigration Services.