INS officials have detained hundreds of men from Muslim countries who showed up at immigration offices to be registered under new government orders.
As part of the USA Patriot Act, Congress told the Justice Department to develop a system to track the comings and goings of foreign visitors. The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS, was launched on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The program requires all men over 16 years old, from 18 countries, to be registered, digitally photographed and fingerprinted. UPI reports this is so investigators can determine whether the men fit the profile of suspected terrorists.
The deadline for people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Sudan, was Monday.
The New York Times reports lines began to form before dawn on Monday at the Los Angeles headquarters of the INS, as hundreds of immigrants accompanied by anxious relatives and immigration lawyers showed up for registration. Similar scenes played out across the country.
INS officials have handcuffed and detained hundreds of people who showed up to be fingerprinted over the past week. In Los Angeles on Friday, officials actually ran out of plastic handcuffs as they herded men into the basement lockup of the federal building, according to the Times. The men had expired student or work visas, or couldn’t provide adequate documentation of their immigration status.
The situation is worse for those who fail to report: they face criminal charges and immediate expulsion from the country. In San Diego yesterday, one day after the deadline, radio station KFMB reported fifty men had been arrested for failing to register.
One immigration lawyer who used to work for the State Department told The New York Times the program compares with the roundups of Germans during World War I and the internment of the Japanese during World War II.
The roundup is expected to intensify. By January 10, men from the following countries must report to immigration officials: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and the only non-Muslim country on the list: North Korea.
And on Monday, the Justice Department announced that men from Armenia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia must also report. They have until Feb. 21. But Armenians have already been taken off the list.
- Jason Erb, director of Governmental Affairs for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
- Jorge Martinez, spokesperson for Department of Justice.
- Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America.
- May Shallah Kheder, Iraqi-American immigration attorney in Virginia.