The next INS registration deadlines for those from the other countries on the list are January 10 and February 21. A January 10 demonstration was called for New York.
The December 27 demonstration here was organized by a coalition of more than 30 local organizations, including several Arab-American and Asian-American community groups, that came together in response to the roundups, jailing, and deportation of hundreds of U.S. residents originally from the Middle East and Asia that stepped up since the fall of 2001.
Among the organizers were the Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), which defends immigrants from South Asia; the Coney Island Avenue Project, based in the large Pakistani community in Brooklyn; the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund; the Korean-American community group Nodutdol; the Committee for the Human Rights of Immigrants; and the Committee for the Release of Farouk Abdel-Muhti, a Palestinian activist currently locked up in an INS jail (see article on page 9).
Earlier in the week, the Coney Island Avenue Project initiated a press conference in Brooklyn that became a rally, with about 100 supporters gathered holding signs declaring, "Say no to special registration," "What’s next, concentration camps?" and "1000s of Muslims detained, tortured, and deported." The press conference included speakers from more than a dozen immigrant rights groups, churches, and the Pakistani community, among others.
The registration requirement, put in place by Attorney General John Ashcroft in November with little publicity, made national headlines in mid-December when thousands of people took to the streets in Los Angeles to protest the arrests of hundreds of Iranian-Americans and others who showed up to meet the INS deadline. December 16 was the deadline for a certain category of people--men older than 16 from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, and Libya who have temporary residence status--to show up at INS offices to be photographed, fingerprinted, and interrogated. Many of those arrested were in the process of applying for their green card.
Immigrants from 13 other countries--Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and north Korea--face a registration deadline of January 10.
Pakistani and Saudi nationals are supposed to register by February 21.Citizens of the targeted countries entering the United States are also being registered upon entry and are required to report regularly to the INS during their stay.
Groups file suit over detentions
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the Alliance of Iranian Americans, and the Council on American Islamic Relations have filed a class-action lawsuit against Attorney General Ashcroft and the INS, taking issue with the special registration procedures and the arrests. An ADC press release reports that the suit, filed December 24 in a Los Angeles federal court, seeks "an injunction ordering the government not to arrest any additional persons in the ‘special registration’ process without appropriate warrants from federal judges" and "an order preventing the deportation of detainees without due process."
Some liberal voices have complained that the problem with the mass arrests of those turning up to register is that they are "counterproductive" to the government’s aims. An editorial in the December 29 Washington Post, for example, argued, "Nothing is wrong, in principle," with fingerprinting and tracking those "who hail from countries with a history of sponsoring terrorism or exporting terrorists." But arresting large numbers of people who show up to comply with the regulations will discourage people from registering, it stated.
South Asians harrassed in New York
Speakers at both New York actions put the latest INS requirements in the framework of the stepped-up harassment of immigrants over the last year and a half. The Coney Island Avenue Project, established after Sept. 11, 2001, to provide legal help and support to Pakistani and other immigrants facing harassment, explains in its brochure, "In just the ten-block neighborhood at the heart of the community on Coney Island Avenue, it is estimated that 60 to 80 men have been taken from their homes and placed in detention centers in New York and New Jersey. Very often their names are not released, their access to lawyers is uncertain, and their families are left without access to information, to services or to the income that the detained person provided."
Bobby Khan of the Coney Island Avenue Project noted, "Muslim and South Asian men have been picked up in droves, yet despite long and harsh detentions and subsequent deportations, none have ever been linked to terrorism. Hardworking people...are being denied basic due process rights, thrown into jails with no recourse to courts, and then, after it is discovered that they have nothing to do with violence and terror, are deported anyway."
Organizers of the press conference celebrated the release that day of Faisal Ulvie, a Pakistani-born man who had received a deportation order after he missed a hearing on his asylum application. Ulvie was already seated on a plane bound for Pakistan when a judge ordered his release on bond.
The registration process, and the humiliation it entails, has struck a nerve among immigrants who thought that, by complying with U.S. laws and regulations as they worked toward becoming permanent residents and citizens, they would finally gain some protection and security.
Some even viewed themselves as supporters of the U.S. government. Dr. Faheem Butt, of the New York chapter of the Pakistani physicians organization EPPNA, denounced the Bush administration at the Brooklyn press conference, saying that the registration requirement for Pakistanis "is directed against staunch supporters of the USA. Pakistan fought in Afghanistan for the USA and what did we get? Instability, drugs, and the war against terrorism. Why us?"
"It’s a big insult! It’s against democracy," said Mona, an Iranian woman who stopped to show her support for the aims of the picket line at the Federal Building. "We came here for a little bit of democracy, but it doesn’t matter how long you have been here, you are still treated like a foreigner. This is just prejudice, not equality. Since 9/11, we are treated like second-class citizens."
Speaking at the December 27 picket at the Federal Building Monami Maulik, organizer of DRUM, pointed out that many of those registering have been questioned about their religious practices, and that the men arrested in Los Angeles were "shackled, strip-searched, and some were hosed down with cold water" before being jailed in overcrowded quarters such as the basement of the INS offices.
John Choe of Nodutdol said, "Koreans suffer discrimination and hardships here and militarization by the United States abroad. The registration is a slap in the face of Koreans in the United States, who helped to build this country. Now Korea has been declared an ‘axis of evil’ by the U.S. government. We say: ‘End the registrations, end racism, deportations, and profiling. End the militarization of Korea.’"
Several speakers referred to the forcible internment of Japanese-Americans that followed a similar registration requirement after Washington declared war on Japan in 1941. Some also expressed their opposition to the developing U.S. war against Iraq.
A member of the Committee for the Release of Farouk Abdel-Muhti appealed for support for the Palestinian activist, who is being held in an INS jail in New Jersey and faces deportation to Egypt or Israel, where his life could be in danger.
Deep, a 17-year old Indian-American, explained why he and his young friends had come to picket the Federal Building. "We are asking people to organize to protest these registrations. We’re here to show we’re against the registrations, and to let others know they’re going on. They are detaining people over anything now. Most people don’t know they have to register, and that if they don’t they could be arrested and deported."
Stop INS registrations, arrests!