ACLU Urges Congress to Fully Investigate Ill-Conceived Immigration Registration and Detention Program

January 10, 2003

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WASHINGTON - Responding to today's second deadline in a controversial immigrant tracking program that has resulted in hundreds of unwarranted detentions, the American Civil Liberties Union called for a full Congressional investigation into the program and urged all affected non-citizens to seek legal counsel.

(Click here to read a statement from the ACLU's Arab, Muslim, South Asian Advocate)

The ACLU and a broad array of concerned religious, civil rights and immigrants' rights groups also submitted a letter to President Bush asking the White House to torpedo the Immigration and Naturalization Service initiative.

""This registration program is an extended vacation from common sense,"" said Dalia Hashad, the ACLU's Arab, Muslim and South Asian Advocate.  ""Not only does it undercut core American conceptions of law and basic decency - it reduces security by alienating the very communities whose cooperation is essential in the fight against terrorism.""

Today marks the program's second deadline for registration.  By tonight, all non-citizen men over the age of 16, who are citizens or nationals of Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, Yemen or the United Arab Emirates, must register with their local INS office or face possible arrest and deportation.  

Registrants will have their fingerprints and photographs taken and, based on the experiences of past registrants, will likely be forced to answer questions - under oath - about their religious beliefs and political affiliations.  The ACLU urged registrants to insist that their right to have counsel present during the process be respected.

December 16, 2002 marked the program's first deadline, which required citizens or nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan or Syria to register with the INS.  Outcry from the media and general public erupted the day after this deadline when media reports disclosed that the INS had used the registration program to round-up hundreds of these men on minor immigration infractions, many of which were caused by incompetence in the agency itself.

Reportedly, during the first wave of detentions, the INS detained a full one-quarter of all those who sought to comply at its Los Angeles office.  In anticipation of a similar wave of detentions, civil rights groups - including the ACLU -- have watchers posted at various processing centers.  Large protests are also expected in Manhattan and San Francisco.

""This whole thing is a round-up,"" said Timothy Edgar, an ACLU Legislative Counsel.  ""Attorney General Ashcroft is using the immigrant registration program as a pretense to lock people up whose only offense was having their green card application get lost in the bureaucratic morass that is the INS.""

The ACLU's statement can be found at:
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The coalition letter to President Bush urging elimination of the INS "Special Registration Program" can be found at:
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Take Action!  Send a Free Fax to Congress urging a stop to the special registration:
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