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American Muslim

Muslims still being deported despite rules change

Katherine Stapp, Inter Press Service, December 17, 2003

NEW YORK - U.S. immigration officials have dropped parts of a contentious registration program for Muslim and Arab men, but critics say that thousands are still being deported and many others face onerous screening procedures when they travel.

The programme dates back to November 2002, when the Justice Department started requiring all male non-citizens over age 16 from any of 21 countries suspected of terrorist links to register with the Immigration and

Naturalisation Service, now a division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The process entails being interviewed, photographed and fingerprinted, or facing possible criminal prosecution. Many of those who have complied said the ordeal took several days, during which time they were held in unheated detention cells without any way to communicate with their families.

Earlier this month, officials said that some 83,000 people who had already registered once would not be automatically required to return for periodic follow-up interviews, as under the old rules. But they would still have to notify the DHS of any change of address, employment or educational institution within 10 days of the change.

In addition, the planned deportations of at least 13,000 people who were found during the initial registration to have committed immigration violations are still going forward...

Civil liberties and Arab American groups welcomed the rule changes, but argue that the program remains fundamentally biased, and is not working in any case, since it has not led to a single terrorist prosecution.

Other persistent problems include the failure of immigration authorities to explain the program's requirements to the public, advocates say.

"A lot of people in the community took the announcement as an end to special registration, when in fact, this is not the case," said Rabiah Ahmed of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. "We wish there had been more outreach."

"The fear is still there," she added. "So many people know someone who has been detained or deported..."