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AILA’s Statement in Opposition to the Special Registration Program

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 02121644 (posted Dec. 16, 2002)"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 16, 20032

Contact: Judith Golub (202) 216-2403
jgolub@aila.org

Statement of the American Immigration Lawyers Association
In Opposition to Special Registration


December 16 is the "special registration call-in" program deadline. In the name of security, male nationals 16 years of age or older from 5 countries who entered the US as nonimmigrants before September 10, 2002 must register to be fingerprinted and photographed by the end of today. A subsequent January 10 deadline applies to nationals from 13 more countries, and a February 21 deadline applies to nationals from another 3 countries.


AILA condemns acts of terrorism and is committed to working with our nation's leaders to enhance our security. However, this measure is a false solution to a real problem because it will not enhance our security. Identifying terrorist threats to our country is like finding a needle in a haystack.  This program will only increase the size of the haystack by creating huge databases that will yield little, if any, useful information because the people who come forward to register are not those who would seek to do us harm.  How likely is it that terrorists would seek to register and self-identify? Call-in registration offers us little protection because it targets people based on national origin, race and religion, rather than on intelligence information, and alienates the very communities whose cooperation we need.


To make matters worse, the registration process is being wrongly applied. Instead of identifying terrorists, the INS in some local offices is using the special registration procedure to identify and detain people who are on the path to permanent residence, but are "out of status" -- sometimes through no fault of their own. It makes no sense from security or resource perspectives to target people who eventually will be granted lawful status because they have applications pending for lawful permanent status, have been issued employment authorization documents, or otherwise are eligible for lawful status.

Not only is the call-in registration program ill-conceived, it also is being wrongly and ineffectively implemented.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) has not given the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) the staff and resources necessary to do its job and has not effectively disseminated information about the program. In fact, the DOJ/INS did not even issue a press release or post information about registration requirements until December 6, only ten days before the deadline, and have indicated that they will not undertake other initiatives to alert the public. The paucity of information will make it likely that otherwise law-abiding people will not register or will fail to comply with program requirements and, therefore, be considered "per se" guilty of a criminal misdemeanor, deportable, and permanently barred from ever reentering the U.S.  Is this the best use of our resources?

While the call-in registration program does little to seek out and identify those in the U.S. who might be intending to harm us, it diverts law enforcement resources from initiatives that effectively enhance our security.  One such initiative is the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act that includes measures that harness our technological and intelligence capabilities.

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Founded in 1946, AILA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that provides its Members with continuing legal education, information, and professional services. AILA advocates before Congress and the Administration and provides liaison with the INS and other government agencies. AILA is an Affiliated Organization of the American Bar Association.

American Immigration Lawyers Association
918 F Street NW, Washington, DC, 20004-1400
Phone (202) 216-2400; Fax (202) 783-7853
www.aila.org

28pr2003