- The Washington Times - Monday, February 17, 2003

The Bush administration has decided to extend the deadline for a large number of foreigners who are required to register with immigration officials while in the United States, U.S. officials said.
The registration period for those from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia has now been extended to March 21. They were added to the Immigration and Naturalization Service registration list on Dec. 18, and were asked to register with the INS by Feb. 21.
The deadline for the citizens and nationals of Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan and Kuwait has also been extended for four weeks. They were added to the list on Jan. 16 and were asked to register between Feb. 24 and March 28.
The first group of the countries requiring registration included Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria.
The second group Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen was added later.
The registration period for these two groups was already extended till Feb. 7 after the expiry of the initial period.
Under a new law, enacted on the first anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, non-permanent residents from 25 nations need to register with the INS.
Visitors from these mainly Muslim nations are also fingerprinted and photographed. These records are then matched with an FBI databank for criminal records and possible involvement in terrorist activities.
Pakistanis are the largest affected group. Pakistan has been actively campaigning to get these restrictions relaxed.
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri visited Washington last week where he met with Attorney General John Ashcroft and other senior U.S. officials and urged them to be lenient to those who come for registration.
After these meetings he told UPI in Washington that U.S. officials had assured him that "the INS registration process will not lead to a large-scale deportation of Pakistanis from the United States."
"We are aware of the concerns of the Pakistan government," said a senior State Department official. "We know that for many families in Pakistan, the $100 or $50 that these Pakistanis send every month makes the difference of having or not having food on the table and sending or not sending a kid to school," said the official.
U.S. officials say that they also are considering proposals to accommodate those Pakistanis who had applied for adjustment of their status under a general amnesty offered by the Clinton administration.
There are two types of people under this category: those who applied for labor certification with cases still in the Labor Department, and those whose cases are now with the INS.
Those whose cases are still in the Labor Department will not be ordered to leave the country immediately. Instead, they will be given six months to a year to appear before a judge and fix their status.
Those who have already been certified by the Labor Department and whose cases are now with the INS will not face deportation proceedings. When they appear for registration, they will be asked to reappear after some time for review of their amnesty applications.
INS officials will also reportedly be lenient in dealing with those on student, professional and work visas. Minor violations by students, such as holding campus jobs without authorization or missing a few classes, will be ignored.

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