Sign-on Letter to Attorney General Ashcroft Requesting an Extension of the INS Registration Deadline

Document Date: December 13, 2002

Attorney General John Ashcroft
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Attorney General Ashcroft:

The Special Call-In Registration Procedures for Certain Nonimmigrants, which requires non-immigrant visa holders from 21 primarily Muslim nations (and North Korea) to appear at INS offices to be interviewed, photographed and fingerprinted is unfair in both its design and application.

As organizations that work closely with populations with significant numbers of immigrants from these countries, we are extremely concerned that the December, January and February registration deadlines will leave many well-intentioned people in violation of the law. We write with urgent requests:

  • The December 16 deadline for registration of non-immigrant visa holders from Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iraq and Iran (AG Order No. 2626-2002) should be extended to March 14;
  • The January 10, 2003 deadline for registration of non-immigrant visa holders from Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen (AG Order No. 2631-2002) should be extended to April 11;
  • The February 21, 2003 deadline for registration of non-immigrant visa holders from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Armenia (AG Order No. 2636-2002) should be extended to May 16;
  • The Department of Justice and the Immigration and Naturalization Service must appropriately publicize these new registration requirements and;
  • The Notice of Special Call-In Registration should be translated into all appropriate languages.

Due to an almost complete lack of public notice, an enormous percentage of the targeted group will not learn of the reregistrations in sufficient time. The order itself is written in difficult to understand language that few native speakers of English can comprehend without significant effort or explanation. While we have many other concerns about the scope and nature of the program, at a minimum we strongly urge you to extend the deadlines for reregistration to a more reasonable date and issue summaries of the order in appropriate languages.

We realize the need for better security, however we are concerned that this order will do little to address the issue. The order is discriminatory because it applies a new regulation to a community based on place of birth rather than behavior or suspicions specific to that individual. The order is founded on the principle of guilt by association and will do little to address the serious security concerns that our nation faces. Furthermore, it will add massive amounts of information about innocent people into national databases whose use and purpose is still entirely undefined. Efforts to address security threats should focus on the actions of individuals, not their place of birth or religious affiliation.

Given the zero-tolerance approach the Justice Department has taken to the American Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities in the past year, the order’s assurances that only people who are ‘willfully’ out of status do little to assuage our concern.

Thank you for taking time to consider our suggestion.


James Zogby
Arab American Institute, Executive Director

Ziad Asali
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Executive Director

Anthony Romero
American Civil Liberties Union, Executive Director

Margaret Fung
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund

Nihad Awad
Council on American Islamic Relations, Executive Director

Salam Al-Marayati
Muslim Public Affairs Council, Executive Director

Cc: Michael Garcia, Acting Commissioner, INS
Dan Brown, Office of the General Counsel, INS
Joseph Zogby, Civil Rights Unit, Department of Justice

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