- The Washington Times - Friday, October 4, 2002

The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service introduced security procedures at airports and borders this week that included photographing and fingerprinting visitors from Arab and Muslim countries.
"The main purpose of this system is to know who's coming into the country, what they're doing when they're here and whether they leave when they're supposed to leave," said Jorge Martinez, Justice Department spokesman. "Obviously, the goal is to protect America from another unfortunate event like on September 11."
As many as 200,000 visitors a year would be subjected to the new procedures at more than 300 ports of entry, the Justice Department said. The figure could increase if intelligence reports indicate a risk from other persons or groups.
The procedures include questions about whether the visitors have traveled to countries hostile to the United States and their plans in this country.
Citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria were the first targeted for closer scrutiny.
"These countries are picked because they are listed as state sponsors of terrorism," Mr. Martinez said.
Citizens of other countries could be chosen for rigorous searches and identification checks if new U.S. intelligence reports determine a heightened risk, he said.
An INS memo last month said additional criteria include men from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen between the ages of 16 and 45. Others subject to the checks may include visitors who have traveled to Afghanistan, Cuba, Indonesia, Malaysia and North Korea, the memo said.
This week, U.S. embassies in Egypt and Jordan have told travelers to expect to be fingerprinted, photographed and questioned if they enter the United States.
The fingerprints are run through a computer database that seeks to match them with known criminals, terrorists or illegal aliens.
Any foreigner who fits the criteria for a terrorist risk must register with the INS within a month of arrival if he plans an extended stay. The person must notify the agency within 10 days if he changes an address or job.
Muslim leaders said the Justice Department guidelines unfairly target travelers based on their nationality or religion.
"This is not going to improve the security of the traveling public or of the American public in general," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "It creates a false sense of security and creates a great deal of resentment in the entire Muslim world when ordinary people are treated as though they're criminals."
The American Civil Liberties Union called the INS guidelines "discriminatory."
"The Bush administration is, step by step, isolating Muslim and Arab communities both in the eyes of the government and the American public," said legislative counsel Timothy Edgar.
However, Justice denies discriminating because of race or religion.
Foreign citizens are selected based on intelligence reports indicating a threat, not by their race or religion, Mr. Martinez said. Similar checks have been used in European countries for years, he said.
"We're doing what Congress mandated us to do," he said. He referred to the USA Patriot Act, which increased funding and expanded the authority of law-enforcement agencies to counter terrorism.
Travelers arriving yesterday at Washington Dulles International Airport on a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight described U.S. Customs Service inspectors as cordial. However, they said they were frustrated by long delays from the new security procedures.
The customs station in New York had "few officers and the flight is big," said Salem Jafar, a 39-year-old Saudi doctor. "You have to go through the same procedure two or three times."
Dr. Jafar was fingerprinted, photographed and questioned about his travels.
"You have your rights, but we have some rights," he said.
The flight was scheduled to arrive at 10:15 a.m. but arrived minutes before 1 p.m.
"That's why we're late, because of the fingerprints for the other people," said a Muslim man from India who did not want his name used. He was not fingerprinted.
"All Muslims are not terrorists," he said. "Our religion is for peace and harmony."

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