The INS’s special registration program requires all males over the age of 16 years from twenty countries to be fingerprinted, photographed, and registered with the INS. This requirement applies to all who are currently in U.S. on visas. The deadline for those from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Syria was December 16, 2002. Those from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen was January 10, 2003. The final deadline of January 13, 2003 was imposed on those from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Those who do not register face criminal charges and/or deportation, but the INS has arrested and detained those who have voluntarily complied. The special registration program has caused concern among the immigrant rights advocates who believe this is used to target and deport Middle Eastern men and boys. On December 16, hundreds of immigrants who voluntarily arrived at the INS center in Southern California to register were arrested, and currently face deportation proceedings. Selective arrests and deportations based on race and religion punish and disenfranchise the innocent, law-abiding individuals and are an attack on the basic civil rights and liberties. Many of those detained have been waiting for applications for “green cards” to go through, a wait caused mainly by the tremendous backlogs in INS.
The lack of informational outreach about the program and its requirements by the Department of Justice and the INS has also created much confusion, as they did not publicize program requirements until December 6, only ten days before the December 16 deadline. The outreach by the government is especially crucial given the drastic consequences for not registering.
Targeting people based solely on their ethnicity and alleged risk to national security has a great potential to “spill-over” to other ethnic, racial, or religious groups. The special registration, which mostly targets Middle Eastern immigrants, should not be glossed over as an outsider’s problem as it is a blatant assault on the immigrant rights and civil liberties, which applies to all immigrant, ethnic, and religious communities. The Young Korean American Service and Education Center endorsed a rally at the INS building in Manhattan, NYC to protest the special registration program. A Jummah Prayer (Muslim Prayer) preceded the rally.