ACLU Press Release - July 1, 2003
Immigrants targeted for deportation after participating in
INS Special Registration program
speak out at the ACLU-AMV-PAA Press Conference
SAN FRANCISCO - The American Muslim Voice, the Pakistani-American Alliance and the ACLU of Northern California held a news conference today with two young brothers who came forward to describe their experiences after voluntarily participating in the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)’s controversial Special Registration Program. The two brothers, one of whom is a 17-year-old teenager still in high school, were placed in deportation proceedings. The 17-year-old and his 19-year-old brother, who is attending college, have been in the U.S. with their mother for several years and do not have any immediate family in Pakistan.
The special registration program requires tens of thousands of men and boys over the age of 16 who are citizens or nationals of mostly Muslim countries to register with their local INS office or face possible arrest and deportation. According to press accounts, the controversial program may lead to the deportation of more then 13,000 men. Last December, hundreds of men and boys from Middle Eastern and African countries were arrested in Los Angeles when they went to register at the INS offices.
“The INS Special Registration Program is yet another example of the government's policy of targeting immigrants – instead of targeting terrorists,” said Jayashri Srikantiah, staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California. “The government's practice of targeting men based on ethnicity, religion, or national origin, rather than on any individualized suspicion, creates fear and distrust in the very communities the government should be working with.”
Hassan and Ahmad Amin reported to the San Jose INS offices on February 10, 2003. Hassan, 19, was detained, arrested and sent to the Yuba County Jail. His brother, Ahmad, 17,was released, but both received a notice to appear. Tahira Manzur, their mother, is a full-time teacher at a local children’s development center. “In 1998 we sold our house in Pakistan to come to this country so that my sons could have a better education,” said Tahira Manzur. “My sons cannot go back to Pakistan, there is no home for them there.”
In a written statement, Yashar Haider described what happened to him on February 2, 2003, when he reported to the San Jose INS offices for special registration and was arrested and detained at Yuba County Jail for allegedly overstaying his visa for 20 days. “By 9:30 pm we reached Yuba County Jail and the shackles were removed; we were all thoroughly checked and huddled into another hall, the so-called “Booking Area.” By 11:00 pm we were getting booked. Tags were issued and my criminal number 103957 was given to me. For the first time in my life I realized that my identity was lost and I became a number in the criminal justice system. My crime was going to the San Jose INS offices on February 2, 2003, for special registration.”
“This program has created a culture of anxiety, humiliation, and despair in communities throughout this country,” said Samina Faheem, Executive Director of the American Muslim Voice and Pakistan American Alliance. “It has made people feel like common criminals, to register and re- register every time they leave the country. We are wasting precious resources on this program.”
On January 9, 2003 the national ACLU and a coalition of sixty religious and civil rights organizations sent a letter to President Bush describing the Special Registration Program as “flawed in both design and implementation” and urging the government to suspend the program. The letter was signed by the Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program, Japanese American Citizens League, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, to name a few.
As Robin Goldfaden, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, observed, "The special registration program – which is now resulting in the deportation of thousands of innocent immigrants -- should be suspended until Congress can conduct oversight."
On December 23, 2002 the ACLU of Northern California sent a letter to Senators Dianne Feinstein, Senator Barbara Boxer and the northern California congressional delegation to urge Attorney General John Ashcroft to suspend implementation of the program until Congress can conduct an independent review of the system.