As Slingshot goes to press, it is possible funding for the INS Special Registration Program will be killed by Congress. Unless and until it is, check out the following:
In mid-November Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered all male non-citizens age 16 and older who are nationals of certain countries to voluntarily appear at INS offices for photographing, fingerprinting, and interrogation. People from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Liberia, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were required to register. Anyone who failed to register was subject to immediate deportation.
By the end of the first deadline, the INS in southern California had detained 1,000 men and boys, fully a quarter of all those who came to register. The men, mostly Iranians, were held for days in deplorable conditions, denied access to lawyers or their families, packed 30 and 40 into freezing cells with no beds, no showers and inadequate food. The Los Angeles jails were so crowded that hundreds were transported to jails in other states. Mass detentions were also reported in Houston and Cleveland. In all but a handful of cases, those detained had minor problems with their paperwork, often the result of INS bungling. Most have now been released on bail, but must return for INS hearings.
This special registration affects tens of thousands of immigrants from Arab and Muslim countries who are here on valid work and study visas. Many of these men have been in this country for years. They are scientists, doctors, teachers, students, and artists. Many of those detained were in the process of becoming permanent residents.
The stated goal of the registration program, which has its origins in the USA Patriot Act, is to counter terrorism. In fact, these mass registrations and detentions are a continuation of a government strategy to criminalize and dehumanize immigrants from Arab, Muslim, and South Asian countries, and to get us all used to restrictions on our basic freedoms in the name of national security. The registration of Arabs and Muslims is chillingly reminiscent of the roundup of the Jews in Nazi Germany and the internment of Japanese Americans in this country during World War II.
What you should know if you are subject to special registration
You Should Not Report For Special Registration Without First Speaking To An Immigration Lawyer. If INS believes you have violated your non-immigrant status or if a name check produces a “hit,” you are likely to be detained by INS and placed in removal [deportation] proceedings. To obtain information about free legal clinics on Special Registration being held in the SF Bay area, please call the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee-San Francisco Chapter (AAADC) at 415 861-7444. If you are detained by INS and do not have an attorney, call the National Lawyers Guild INS Hotline at 415 285-1041.
You may be detained for any one of the following reasons (or others) if you report for special registration.
- You have overstayed your non-immigrant visa;
- You have worked without INS authorization;
- You have failed to report for special registration;
- You have had any kind of contact with the police;
- You have failed to appear for an INS court hearing or interview at any time since you arrived in the US;
- You have failed to appear in any court;
- You failed to attend school after being admitted as a nonimmigrant student;
- You have changed employers without obtaining another H-1 visa;
- You are no longer working for your H-1 employer;
- You entered the US with K-1 visa but didn’t get married
If a friend or family member came with you to special registration and you are arrested or detained, insist on being able to speak with that person before you are moved from the INS building. Ask an INS Detention Officer for your A number and give the number to your friend or family member who you should ask to call your attorney immediately. When you are moved to a new detention facility, call your friend or family member to let them know where you are.
Men who have reported for special registration and have been detained have been held for periods from overnight to ten days or longer. You will be detained until INS or the immigration judge sets a bond in your case and you are able to post the bond. Although you may be eligible for a bond, INS has been refusing to recommend a bond which means you must wait to be taken before an immigration judge to have a bond set in your case. In some situations, you may be ineligible for a bond because of existing immigration laws. Your bond may be $1,500 or more. Your family or friends will need to post the bond for you. When your deportation/removal case in the immigration court is completed, the full amount of the bond will be returned to you. If your friends and family do not have enough money to post the bond, they may post a surety bond through a bonding company. This money will not be returned to them and you may have to pay an annual renewal fee to the company.