Hello Everybody. This is Cyrus Mehta. Welcome to this week’s edition of immigration matters.
We wish to remind viewers that the special registration deadline for Group 4 countries is April 25, 2003. Males who are 16 years of age or older and who are nationals or citizens of Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan or Kuwait, and were present in the US before October 1, 2002, must register by April 25, 2003.
The individuals who need to register must have entered before October 1, 2002, on nonimmigrant visas such as a student, tourist or work visa. It applies to people who are in status as well as those who are out of status. Special registration does not apply to US citizens, green card holders, refugees, asylum applicants, asylum grantees, and diplomats or others admitted under A or G visas. Nor does it apply to people who did not enter as nonimmigrants. Thus, those who entered without inspection or on advance parole need not register.
Special registration applies to nationals or citizens of the above-mentioned countries even though they are planning to leave the US before April 25, 2003. Prior to the deadline extension, citizens or nationals of Group 4 countries had to register by March 28, 2003. If they left before March 28, 2003, they were not subject to registration.
When the Group 4 deadline was extended to April 25, the March 28 cut off date was not changed. Therefore, Group IV citizens or nationals who have not left the US by March 28 and are planning to leave before April 25 are still advised to register.
Since the war against Iraq, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the detention of asylum seekers of certain nationalities as part of “Operation Liberty Shield.” The new detention policy does not apply to affirmative asylum applicants who are already in the US. It will apply to people who arrive unlawfully into the US and apply for asylum at a port of entry. Even prior to Operation Liberty Shield, such asylum seekers were detained. However, once they passed the initial credible fear interview, many were released on parole if they did not pose a danger to the community and met other criteria such as the individual’s ties to the community. As a result of Operation Liberty Shield, asylum seekers from Iraq and unspecified countries where Al-Qaeda is allegedly present will now be kept detained for an average of six months according to the DHS fact sheet. While there will be limited humanitarian exceptions permitting release, the DHS fact sheet provides no information on what will be considered as such exception.
Finally, under an order of Attorney General Ashcroft, prior to the transfer of immigration services to the DHS, FBI and US Marshals can now detain foreign nationals for alleged immigration violations in cases where there is not enough evidence to hold them on criminal charges. According to a Washington Post article (Eggen, Rules on Detention Widened, March 20, 2003, A11), this order could be put into wide use over the duration of the war when the FBI launches a wartime contingency plan that will include interviews with thousands of Iraqi nationals living in the US. Dozens of those immigrants, including some believed to be sympathetic to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein are likely to be arrested on suspicion that they have violated immigration laws, according to the Washington Post article.
Historically, the functions of law enforcement agents and immigration officers have been kept separate in part to encourage illegal immigrants to report crimes without fear of detention or deportation. The new order to arrest immigrants suspected of violating immigration laws will breach the historic wall that has long separated federal law enforcers from immigration officers.
This new order has been roundly criticized by immigration advocates. Since September 11, we have been seeing a pattern in which the government uses minor violations of immigration law as a pretext for preventive detention. These detention practices have largely focused on non-citizens who are predominantly Muslims.
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This is Cyrus Mehta wishing you a wonderful weekend. See you again in two weeks.