Friday, January 10, 2003

Immigration and Discrimination

I remember a couple of years back, the Taliban had suggested that all Hindus residing in Afghanistan were to wear yellow tags so that everyone would know they were not with the majority. The outcry in America, especially in Congress and in the NGO community, was tremendous and many were saying how eerily similar this was to Nazi Germany and the forcing of Jews to wear Stars of David.

Interestingly enough, the State of Pennsylvania will now denote someones immigrant status on their drivers licenses. This is slightly different than what the Taliban wanted to do and what Hitler actually did, but is it necessary? Obviously, it is not only immigrants that conduct terrorism. Americans are already suspicious of immigrants, and I think it is cruel and unusual to add to this suspicion by adding unnecessary information to their drivers licenses--it just makes discrimination easier.

More cruel and unusual is this new idea of having immigrants, of only certain Arab countries register with the INS. To make this less discrimanatory, shouldn't all immigrants be forced to register with the INS? I don't think any terrorist, or any smart terrorist would actually show up to register with the government. And if this is to control illegal immigration, or persons who overstay their visa's then shouldn't all non-citiznes be forced to register, rather than just those being forced to right now?

According to a report from the Washington Post

Registration began last month for temporary male visitors from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria. Men from 12 other heavily Muslim countries and North Korea must register by today, and will be followed by an estimated 14,000 Saudis and Pakistanis, who must appear at INS offices by Feb. 21. Once inside, the men -- all 16 and older -- have been fingerprinted, photographed and questioned about their activities and associations in interviews that have lasted as long as two hours. If their visas are expired or if they have otherwise violated U.S. immigration law, they may be detained and deported, officials said.

But since a clumsy start last month -- when at least 200 Iranian visitors were arrested in Los Angeles alone -- the program has turned into a mounting public relations problem for the Bush administration. And it is only the latest government immigration initiative since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to generate controversy. The FBI previously interviewed thousands of Middle Eastern nationals, and various law enforcement agencies collectively detained more than 1,200 immigrants after the terrorist strikes. "The pure accumulation of just massive amounts of data is not necessarily helpful, especially for an agency like the INS that already has problems keeping track of things," said Juliette Kayyem, a terrorism expert at Harvard University. "Basically, what this has become is an immigration sweep. The idea that this has anything to do with security, or is something the government can do to stop terrorism, is absurd."


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