ACLU and Coalition of Immigrants' Rights Groups "Register Discontent" with Government's Immigrant Registration Program

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
January 10, 2003 12:00 am

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ACLU and Coalition of Immigrants’ Rights Groups “Register Discontent” with Government’s Immigrant Registration Program

Joint Statement by Donna Lieberman, Executive Director, New York Civil Liberties Union and Dalia Hashad, Arab, Muslim and South Asian Advocate, American Civil Liberties Union


NEW YORK-The American Civil Liberties Union today joins with other immigrants’ rights organizations across the nation to “register our discontent” with the government’s latest attack on immigrant groups.

For more than a year now, the Bush administration has launched fierce and unquestionably damaging attacks on the civil liberties of every American. Particularly frightening is the government’s continuous racial, religious and ethnic profiling of Arabs, Muslims and South Asians. While the policies and practices of this government may not yet directly touch the lives of all Americans, the consequences of assaults on our civil liberties certainly do.

The latest in the government’s series of ill-conceived and discriminatory policies is the implementation of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System. The Department of Justice has issued three notices since November requiring all nonimmigrant men over the age of 16 who are from a list of 18 Muslim countries and North Korea and Eritrea to register in person at Immigration and Naturalization Service offices before certain deadlines and to check in regularly with the government every year thereafter. This amounts to blatant racial and religious profiling and was quickly shown to be nothing more than a pretext for a second wave of roundups and detention of Arab, Muslim and South Asian men and teens.

Thus far, the Special Call-In Registration has been nothing short of a disaster. The INS announced these new requirements in confusing and complicated notices in the Federal Registry. Officials did not appropriately or adequately publicize the new requirements and did not immediately translate the notices into all appropriate languages. The registration proposal was so haphazardly initiated that it did not allow enough time for individuals to learn of the requirements and register. The INS did not even bother to provide a registration facility in every state. It is under these circumstances that officials set the restrictive deadline for registration at one month.

We believe that the DOJ and the INS never provided appropriate advertisement, translation or means to register because their goal is not actually to register people. Instead, we believe the government’s goal is to take people who are in good status and through no fault of their own, make them deportable; all because these people were born into certain religious and ethnic backgrounds.

Last month, hundreds of men and boys who voluntary came to INS facilities to register were arrested, detained and mistreated. Stories of these abuses sent waves of terror through the targeted communities and prevented many people who would have registered from coming in.

Now these men and young boys-even those who were in otherwise perfect status-are technically deportable. The INS should have certainly anticipated this problem and done everything in its power to prevent it from happening in the first place.

This racial profiling is dangerous to our democracy. We therefore call on all citizens of conscience to register their discontent. The Department of Justice and the INS need to know that the broader American public understands and strenuously objects to what is happening with immigrant communities.

These registration schemes are not making us any safer. They do nothing but damage our reputation as a freedom-loving society and a land welcoming of immigrants. Our government must stop wasting precious resources engaging in discriminatory round ups. By design, the Special Call-In Registration scheme is wrong and fundamentally un-American.

At a minimum, the INS must stop detaining and arresting these people who are voluntarily complying with the requirements. Given its own extreme and deliberate failures of notification and implementation, the INS should extend all registration deadlines, release those already detained and either scrap or refashion the program.

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