Hello Everybody. This is Cyrus Mehta. Welcome to this week’s edition of immigration matters.
The new registration program is on everybody’s mind. Thus far, male citizens or nationals of 25 countries have been ordered to report to the INS for registration. Except for North Korea, all of the other countries in the registration program are nations with significant Islamic population. Pakistan, and more recently Bangladesh, were included among the 25 countries.
The program has generated extreme controversy. It has thus far drawn almost 24,000 nationwide and has led to the detention of over 1500 foreign nationals. People who have had visa status violations will have to appear for a deportation hearing before the Immigration Judge.
There are two components to the registration program. The first applies to nonimmigrants who entered the country after a certain date and are registered at the airports itself. They will then have to report periodically to the INS.
The more controversial version is "Call-In" registration, which applies to males from the targeted 25 countries who entered as nonimmigrants before certain cut-off dates. Thus, permanent residents or citizens, as well as asylum applicants or asylees, do not have to register. Nor do people who entered the US illegally (Entry Without Inspection) or on advance parole. Our website www.cyrusmehta.com
provides full details of who has to register.
Call-In registration was officially described as a routine security measure, but when the first batch of people registered on or before December 16, 2002, many INS offices, particularly the one in Los Angeles, arrested individuals who had visa violations, even though they were presently applicants for adjustment of status to permanent residence. Rather than being a security measure, it is now perceived as a round up of males from mainly Muslim countries.
The program is troubling because it inherently profiles an individual based on his or her nationality regardless of individualized guilt or suspicion. It even applies to someone who has taken citizenship of another country such as Canada but who was born in one of the targeted countries. The registration program has generated protest from the governments of Canada, Pakistan, Indonesia and a host of other countries.
The question on everybody’s mind is whether special registration will extend to all the countries in the world. Under the USA Patriot Act, the Justice Department has been mandated to develop an entry-exit tracking system by 2005 to monitor the whereabouts of all nonimmigrant aliens entering the US. To date, registration has only applied to males from countries with significant Muslim population, with the exception of North Korea. At one point of time, Armenia was also included in the list along, with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Within two days of this announcement, Armenia was removed from the list. Armenia has a significant Christian population. If registration will be applicable to all countries, one wonders why Armenia was removed.
On the other hand, one should expect some form of control being imposed on all nonimmigrants in the next two years. Whether it will be in the same format as the controversial “Call-In” registration program remains to be seen. Many human rights and immigrant advocacy organizations, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association, have called for a repeal of the special registration program. Lawsuits challenging the program have also been mounted in California and more are expected shortly in other courts.
It is hoped that government officials in charge of this program realize that casting dragnets against people, solely based on their nationality, and regardless of individualized guilt or suspicion, could later be judged negatively. Not too long back, after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, 120,000 Japanese-Americans were placed in internment camps solely because of their nationality. Forty years later, a US President issued an apology to Japanese-Americans and Congress also passed a law to make reparations.
In closing, how likely is it that a terrorist would seek to register and will wait in long lines to identify with the INS? Call in registration offers us little protection because it targets people based on national origin, race and religion, rather than on intelligence information.
This segment is brought to you by Cyrus D. Mehta & Associates, PLLC. If you have any questions on this or related matters, please contact us at 212-425-0555. The number once again is 212-425-0555. You can also email us at email@example.com
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This is Cyrus Mehta wishing you a wonderful weekend. See you again in two weeks.