FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SAN FRANCISCO -Two young brothers came forward today to describe how they were detained and arrested after voluntarily participating in the Immigration and Naturalization Service's controversial Special Registration Program, at a news conference convened by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the American Muslim Voice and the Pakistani-American Alliance.
""The INS Special Registration Program is yet another example of the government's policy of targeting immigrants instead of targeting terrorists,"" said Jayashri Srikantiah, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California. ""The government's practice of targeting men based on ethnicity, religion, or national origin, rather than on any individualized suspicion, creates fear and distrust in the very communities the government should be working with.""
The special registration program requires tens of thousands of men and boys over the age of 16 who are citizens or nationals of mostly Muslim countries to register with their local INS office or face possible arrest and deportation. According to news accounts, the controversial program may lead to the deportation of more then 13,000 men. Last December, hundreds of men and boys from Middle Eastern and African countries were arrested in Los Angeles when they went to register at the INS offices.
The two brothers, one of whom is 17 and still in high school, were placed in deportation proceedings. The 17-year-old and his 19-year-old brother, who is attending college, have lived in the United States with their mother for several years and do not have any immediate family in Pakistan.
Hassan and Ahmad Amin reported to the San Jose INS offices on February 10, 2003. Hassan, 19, was detained, arrested and sent to the Yuba County Jail. His brother, Ahmad, 17, was released, but both received a notice to appear for deportation hearings.
Tahira Manzur, their mother, is a full-time teacher at a local children's development center. ""In 1998 we sold our house in Pakistan to come to this country so that my sons could have a better education,"" Manzur said. ""My sons cannot go back to Pakistan, there is no home for them there.""
A third individual who also encountered problems during special registration has since decided to voluntarily to Pakistan. In a written statement, the man, Yashar Haider, described what happened to him on February 2, 2003, when he reported to the San Jose INS offices for special registration and was arrested and detained at Yuba County Jail for allegedly overstaying his visa for 20 days.
""By 9:30 p.m. we reached Yuba County Jail and the shackles were removed; we were all thoroughly checked and huddled into another hall, the so-called 'Booking Area.'"" Haider wrote. ""By 11:00 p.m. we were getting booked. Tags were issued and my criminal number 103957 was given to me. For the first time in my life I realized that my identity was lost and I became a number in the criminal justice system. My crime was going to the San Jose INS offices on February 2, 2003, for special registration.""
Samina Faheem, Executive Director of the American Muslim Voice and Pakistan American Alliance, said the registration program ""has created a culture of anxiety, humiliation, and despair in communities throughout this country. It has made people feel like common criminals, to register and re- register every time they leave the country. We are wasting precious resources on this program.""
On January 9, 2003, the national ACLU and a coalition of 60 religious and civil rights organizations sent a letter to President Bush describing the Special Registration Program as ""flawed in both design and implementation"" and urging the government to suspend the program. The letter was signed by the Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program, Japanese American Citizens League, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, among others.
""The special registration program - which is now resulting in the deportation of thousands of innocent immigrants -- should be suspended until Congress can conduct oversight,"" said Robin Goldfaden, a staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project.
Last December, the ACLU of Northern California sent a letter to Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and to the Northern California congressional delegation asking them to urge Attorney General John Ashcroft to suspend implementation of the program until Congress can conduct an independent review of the system.