- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 5, 2002

No blanket exemption

Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham oversimplified the issue of whether Canadians born in countries linked to terrorism will be subject to new U.S. immigration rules, a U.S. diplomat in Canada said yesterday.

Mr. Graham last week told the Canadian Parliament that Paul Cellucci, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, had assured him that naturalized Canadian citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria would be exempt from regulations that require fingerprints and photographs of people from those five countries before they can enter the United States.

However, the U.S. diplomat told Embassy Row that the Justice Department has decided that Canadians from those countries will not automatically be subject to the regulations but immigration agents can use their judgment.

"INS officers have the discretion to stop anyone they want to," the diplomat said, referring to agents of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. "If they traveled to one of those countries recently, that could raise a red flag."

The immigration rules adopted a year after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon created a sharp public dispute in Canada, often considered America's closest ally and primary trading partner.

The angered Canadian government last week issued a travel advisory, warning Canadians of Arab descent to beware of visiting the United States. Canada was also complained in September when a man with Canadian and Syrian citizenship was detained in New York while changing planes and deported to Syria, instead of being sent to Canada where he lives.

On Friday, the U.S. Embassy admitted the special treatment for Canadians came "in response to concerns previously expressed by the Canadian government."

"Place of birth by itself will not automatically trigger registration" by fingerprints and photographs, but "U.S. immigration officials reserve the right to register any aliens, including Canadians, whom they believe pose a threat to the United States," the embassy said.

Mr. Cellucci last week met with Attorney General John Ashcroft to inform him of the Canadian complaints against the new rules.

Embassy Row yesterday noted that Mr. Graham told Parliament last week, "I spoke to Mr. Cellucci just before I came here and he informed me that as of the future, Canadians carrying Canadian passports will not be treated any differently depending on where they were born."

The U.S. diplomat, who asked not to be identified, said, "Graham made a general statement and later was more nuanced when talking to reporters."

Meanwhile, Canada's immigrant minister, Denis Coderre, is complaining about another U.S. immigration rule that will require visas for foreigners who are permanent residents of Canada.

"What annoys me is that new racial profile," he told reporters in interviews published yesterday in Canadian newspapers. "We have to do something about that."

Mr. Cellucci defended the new rules as an attempt to apply consistency "so that people who have citizenship in a particular country are treated pretty much the same."

"If you live in Pakistan," he added, "you need a visa to come to the United States. But if you're a Pakistani citizen living in Canada shouldn't the rules be the same?"

Kidnapping warning

The State Department yesterday warned Americans in the Middle East they could be targets of kidnappings by Islamic terrorists.

The department said terrorists are looking for soft targets such as "residential areas, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, hotels, schools, outdoor recreation events, resorts and beaches."

"Recent terrorist attacks have included the attacks on U.S. forces in Kuwait that killed one Marine, an attack against a French oil tanker off the coast of Yemen and the murder of a U.S. diplomat in Jordan," the department said in an updated "public announcement" on the Middle East and North Africa.

"Private Americans citizens may also be targeted for other terrorist actions, including kidnapping."

The department added, "Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets."

U.S. embassies, consulates and other government facilities worldwide remain on a "heightened state of alert," the department said.

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