- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 11, 2003

A federal judge has refused to block the potential arrest and deportation of illegal immigrants who register under a new program aimed at tracking thousands of men from countries considered high risks for terrorism.
The ruling came on the eve of yesterday's deadline for more than 7,000 of the affected men from Afghanistan, Algeria, Yemen and 10 other nations to register with U.S. immigration officials.
U.S. District Judge Alicemarie H. Stotler, in Santa Ana, Calif., refused to intervene in a request by defense attorneys for several Middle Eastern immigrants and civil rights groups for a temporary restraining order to stop any arrest or deportation of undocumented aliens.
Judge Stotler, in her ruling Thursday, cited the federal court system's general lack of jurisdiction in immigration matters. An appeal is expected.
The government's new "special registration" order requires men 16 years and older from a total of 20 countries who have come to the United States as tourists, students, businessmen or on other temporary visas to report their residency status to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Nineteen of the 20 countries are heavily Muslim nations in the Middle East or North Africa. The 20th is North Korea.
About 3,000 U.S. visa holders from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Syria previously were required to register with the INS by Dec. 16.
Yesterday's deadline affected another 7,200 men from 13 countries Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
An estimated 14,000 visitors from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have until Feb. 21 to register.
The registration order was included in a sweeping list of security measures proposed by Attorney General John Ashcroft after the September 11 attacks by Middle Eastern terrorists on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that killed more than 3,000.
The Justice Department has vigorously pursued an anti-terrorism program aimed at screening at the nation's borders visitors from countries identified as terrorism risks by U.S. intelligence officials. Mr. Ashcroft has said that federal authorities "must have a better understanding of who is entering and exiting our country."
Although the registration is required, many visa applications have been delayed over the past several years because of an INS backlog. Immigrants who hold visa waivers have said they automatically could be deported because the waivers permit deportation without a judge's order.
The new registration requirement sparked widespread concern among many Muslim immigrants. It has resulted in long lines at several INS offices across the country, where those responding to the order have been fingerprinted, photographed and asked to provide detailed information about their backgrounds and the purpose of their visits.
Those whose visas have expired and others who can be shown to have violated U.S. immigration law have been subject to arrest and deportation. More than 500 individuals have been detained since the September 11 attacks.
Under the program, some of the approximately 35 million non-immigrants who enter the United States each year are required to register with the INS either at a port of entry or a designated INS office.
Federal authorities said a growing number of immigrants required to register under the new order have opted to flee to Canada rather than be jailed or deported. Canadian immigration officials said the number of asylum seekers entering Quebec at the border with Champlain, N.Y., rose from six per day to more than 40.
Similar increases were reported in Lacolle, Quebec; Fort Erie and Windsor, Ontario; and in British Columbia. Most asylum seekers were identified as Pakistani nationals, although others required to register under the new program have also sought refuge.
Under the INS guidelines, a non-immigrant is a foreign national seeking to enter the United States temporarily for a specific purpose. Once in the country, they are restricted to the activity or reason for which their visa was issued.
The guidelines say the foreign national must agree to depart at the end of his authorized stay, must have a valid passport, must maintain a foreign residence, may be required to show proof of financial support and must abide by the terms and conditions of admission.
Jan. 30 is the deadline for universities across the country to enroll in a nationwide computer-surveillance program known as the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, or SEVIS that would give the INS the ability to keep track of international students and ensure that they actually enrolled.
Congress required the INS to maintain updated information on the nearly 1 million non-immigrant foreign students and exchange visitors during the course of their stay in the United States each year.

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