Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 03010940 (posted Jan. 9, 2003)"
American Immigration Lawyers Association
January 9, 2003
Judith Golub (202) 216-2403
Charlie Miller (202)
Dane VandenBerg (202) 466-7246
Immigration Special Registration Must Be Repealed,
Immigration Lawyers on Eve of Second Round of Deadlines
Substantial Problems Jeopardize, Rather Than Protect, National
STATEMENT BY JEANNE BUTTERFIELD
Director, American Immigration Lawyers Association
The “special registration” program that the U.S. Government has put into
place is a misguided attempt to increase our nation’s security. The American
people deserve better than this false solution to a very real problem. Our
nation will not be made more secure by requiring innocent immigrants to report
to INS offices to “register”, only to find themselves subject to arbitrary
arrest, detention, abuse and possible deportation.
We urge the Department of Justice/Immigration and Naturalization Service to
spend their limited resources in more effective and sensible ways.
Programs to enhance our nation’s security should target terrorists, not innocent
The “special registration” program is fundamentally flawed. The program
substitutes national origin/racial/religious profiling for effective law
enforcement profiling based on intelligence information.
The program is also deeply flawed in its implementation. The INS has
used special registration to detain people who are on the path to permanent
residency. Hundreds of arrests have resulted. The Department of
Justice (DOJ) has not given the INS the necessary staff, resources and guidance
to implement the program. As a result, dozens of people attempting to
comply with the law have been turned away and told to come back at a future
time. Finally, even though the INS has not effectively educated the public
about the program, those who reported “late” after hearing about the program
through news reports, friends and lawyers, have been detained and told that they
are being punished for reporting after the deadline.
We call on President Bush to end this misguided program. At the very
least, existing deadlines must be extended so that implementation problems can
be addressed and corrected. Necessary corrections include:
- Special registration (or other future programs) should not detain or
deport people who have a claim to legal status. It makes no
sense from security or economic perspectives to target people who eventually
will be granted lawful status. These people have applications pending for
lawful permanent status, have been issued employment authorization documents, or
are otherwise are eligible for lawful status. They are technically and
temporary “out of status” due to INS delays and inefficiencies.
- The DOJ/INS must adequately publicize program requirements, initiate
effective outreach programs, and not penalize those who did not register because
they did not know about the program. The DOJ/INS needs to do a better
job of effectively disseminating information and take responsibility for
inadequately publicizing this program and its requirements. The
DOJ/INS needs to grant waivers for those who did not register for the program
because they had no knowledge of it or because of the fear created by the mass
arrests of registrants in some offices.
- The DOJ/INS must implement uniform procedures in their district offices
that make sense. Because the DOJ/INS has provided insufficient
guidance to district offices, these offices have used their discretion to adopt
widely disparate procedures to implement special registration. Such
disparities should end, replaced by uniform procedures that make sense.
- The DOJ/INS needs to clarify registration requirements.
The registration requirements are unclear. The result has been that some
people are being turned away from registration centers while others are unsure
if they are required to register. The lack of meaningful outreach to the
affected communities makes this problem even worse.
- The DOJ/INS must take steps to guard against another potential trap for
innocent visitors. A little-publicized rule in special registration
requires those who have been registered to report to Departure Control each time
they leave the U.S. Few registrants are given clear information about this
rule, but if they fail to follow it correctly, they will be forever barred from
returning to the U.S.
ABOUT SPECIAL REGISTRATION January 10th is the
second deadline of the “special registration call-in” program. At that
time, non-immigrant men from thirteen countries must register to be
fingerprinted, photographed and interviewed. Men born on or before
December 2, 1986 who entered the country before September 30, 2002 from
Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman,
Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen are required to
The first deadline was December 16, 2002 for certain men from Iran, Iraq,
Sudan, Syria and Libya. The next deadline is February 21, 2003 for certain
men from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
ABOUT AILA 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,
Phone (202) 216-2400; Fax (202) 783-7853