Wednesday, January 15, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 (UPI) — The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service has detained a Pakistani student apparently for not paying his college dues, his roommates told United Press International Wednesday.

Khurram Ali, 22, a student of aeronautical engineer at New York’s Hunter College, traveled to the United States 18 months ago from Saudi Arabia where his parents live. He holds a Pakistani passport.

Ali’s roommate in Brooklyn, N.Y., told UPI he was detained at the INS office in Manhattan when he went there Monday for special registration.

The U.S. government has asked visitors and temporary residents from 20, mainly Muslim, countries to register with the INS. During the registration, the visitors are also interviewed, photographed and fingerprinted. Registration for Pakistani and Saudi nationals began Monday.

Ali’s roommates, who asked not to be identified, said before Ali arrived in New York, he studied at Eastern Oregon University in Le Grande, Ore. They said he owed the college $2,000 but went to New York without paying his dues.

During INS registration, officials discovered the debt and detained him.

On Tuesday night, Ali called his roommates from the Federal Plaza, Manhattan, and said he has been held in the building since Monday. He told his roommates he was being treated well and was allowed to call his friends and family. His cell phone and credit card were taken away, however.

Ali also asked his friends to clear his dues so he could be released, they said.

It is not clear if INS officials would release him after that, however, as immigration laws allow the agency to deport students who fail to pay their dues for one semester.

INS officials in Washington, when contacted for comments, referred to the agency’s office in New York where officers did not return calls despite several attempts.

Ali is the first Pakistani to be detained by the INS under the new registration program.

His friends say he has a valid, 5-year F-1 visa and intends to complete his studies if he is released and allowed to study in the United States.

The registration of foreign nationals from 20 countries was prompted by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in which the suspected hijackers, mainly Arabs, were in the country on student visas.

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