Attempts to Follow the Law Land 13,000 in Deportation
Editorial boards, immigration advocates, and affected
communities across the country have condemned the
government’s decision to place more than 13,000 men
into deportation proceedings, as a result of the
special immigration registration program instituted
after 9-11 for men from certain Arab, Muslim, and
Asian countries. In essence, those who came
forward to register are being rewarded with a one-way
ticket out of the country. Were they in
technical violation of the terms of their American
visas? Yes. For some, however, unprocessed
paperwork pending at the INS and its successor agency,
DHS, would have allowed them to remain in the U.S.
legally. So understaffing, bureaucratic
bungling, and processing delays are contributing to
the deportability of these 13,000-plus men, none of
whom were found to have terrorist ties. They are
getting a raw deal.
The government claims that
"any time an immigration officer comes into contact
with someone who is unlawfully present, they do have a
responsibility to place that person in deportation
proceedings." To the contrary, INS/DHS officers
may exercise “prosecutorial discretion” in deciding
whether to place an individual in removal proceedings.
Stated more accurately, INS/DHS opted to place these
13,000-plus men in deportation proceedings after they
complied with the registration program. (A fact
sheet on prosecutorial discretion can be found on the
Why are American tax dollars being spent to shackle,
try, and deport 13,000-plus men with no ties to
terrorism? How will the next round of immigrants
react when they are asked to present themselves for
registration, to provide clues in rooting out
terrorists, or to assist law enforcement with national
security investigations? Will mass deportations
make the people and governments of the countries from
which they came more or less likely to help the United
States in the ongoing war on terrorism? And will
policies to restrict legal remedies for immigrants
increase or decrease the perception, at home and
abroad, that America is a fair country, based on laws
and due process, that does not discriminate based on
race, religion, gender, or national origin?
It is entirely reasonable for the United States to
have an entry/exit system that accurately determines
who is in the country at any given time. That
system must be applied across the board, without
regard to gender, religion, race, or national origin.
It also needs to be sufficiently resourced and staffed
to be effective.
the fates of the 13,000-plus special registration
deportees lie in the hands of officers at DHS,
Immigration Judges at DOJ, and consular officers at
DOS. We urge these agencies to issue and enforce
policies that look favorably on those who came forward
to register and were “rewarded” by being placed in
deportation proceedings. At the very least,
registrants with a pending application for a visa must
be given the opportunity to have their applications
See the attached article from The Washington Post
for a recent analysis.
WASHINGTON POST: Immigrants Fear Deportation After
Number of Mideast, Muslim Men Expelled Rises Sharply
Nurith C. Aizenman and Edward Walsh, Monday, July 28,
Andre Aniba acknowledges he hasn't always played by
the rules. In 1998, the former pastry chef came to the
United States from Tunisia on a three-month tourist
visa. He has lived here ever since.
But when Congress passed legislation two years later
that allowed illegal immigrants to apply for permanent
residency, Aniba quickly sent in the proper forms.
Early this year, when the government called on
visitors from 25 nations that are considered havens
for terrorists to register with immigration
authorities, he dutifully appeared.
To his horror, Aniba, whose application to work as a
chef at a Maryland restaurant was pending, was told he
would be deported.
His experience was hardly exceptional. With little
public notice outside immigrant communities, the
government is moving to deport the largest number of
visitors from Middle Eastern and other Muslim
countries in U.S. history -- more than 13,000 of the
nearly 83,000 men older than 16 who complied with the
registration program by various deadlines between last
September and April.
When they showed up, they were found in violation of
immigration laws -- even though, like Aniba, many were
already participating in the government-sponsored
program to become legal residents.
"The sheer numbers are mind-boggling," said Sohail
Mohammed, an attorney in Clifton, N.J., who handles
many of the cases and says Muslims are being unfairly
singled out in the tightening of immigration
procedures after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"We could end up deporting almost as many Muslims in
one year as we have in the last 10.
And to me
that shows that we're not administering our
immigration laws fairly."
To Aniba, now 27 and living in Rockville, the
frustration is more personal. "It's like [the United
States] said to me, 'Yes, come here. Get a green
card.' And then suddenly said, 'Oh, wait! I changed my
mind,' after I had gone through all that hassle and
expense and waited more than two years for my
application to go through," said Aniba, who agreed to
speak only on condition that his nickname of Andre be
used to avoid jeopardizing his deportation case. " . .
. It's unfair and it's discrimination."
Middle Easterners still make up a very small
percentage of the 150,000 to 180,000 foreign nationals
deported annually; the overwhelming majority are
Mexican. Yet even if many of the 13,000 men facing
deportation proceedings persuade judges not to expel
them, government officials agree that the number of
Middle Eastern and Muslim men forced to leave probably
will dwarf totals from previous years.
Deportations of people from the same Middle Eastern
and largely Muslim countries totaled about 1,300
annually in recent years. They reached about 2,800 in
the year after the Sept. 11 attacks. Among the 25
nations on the list are Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt,
Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia,
Syria and Tunisia, and one non-Muslim nation, North
The dramatic rise in deportations is a side effect,
not an objective, of the registration program, said
Bill Strassberger, a spokesman for the Department of
"The goal was to register individuals from these
particular countries. . . . I don't know that anyone
expected that we would have that many visitors who
were here unlawfully," he said.
"And any time an immigration officer comes into
contact with someone who is unlawfully present, they
do have a responsibility to place that person in
Strassberger described the program as the first step
in establishing a new entry and exit system under
which all visitors to the United States eventually
will be required to register. He said visitors from
the 25 countries covered in the initial stages of the
program are considered "higher risk" because people
from those countries have been linked to terrorist
"Since 9/11, the country is at a higher alert," he
said. "We have to take extra precautions, and that
would include monitoring the arrival, departures and
travels of individuals from countries that have an
active terrorist organization presence that poses a
threat to us."
But Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on
American-Islamic Relations, said the policy "is being
used as almost a deportation trap. I think it's
causing a lot of fear and apprehension. It creates a
sense of being besieged. There are heart-wrenching
stories of whole communities being decimated."
Muslim and Arab American advocates also charge that
those costs have not been matched by corresponding
benefits in the war on terrorism. They note that
government officials have said the registration
program, and an associated program to track visitors
as they enter and leave the United States, have netted
only 11 men with possible links to terrorism.
"The next Mohamed Atta is not going to register," said
Arlington lawyer Tariq Syed, referring to the leader
of the airplane hijackers who attacked the World Trade
Center. Instead, Syed said, the registration program
has snagged people who were trying to comply with the
Aniba agreed. "Why are they doing this to us?" he
asked. "When they asked me to come register, I did.
Now I'm being punished."
When they signed up, some visitors were discovered to
be in the United States illegally, and have been
deported or ordered to return home. Others appear to
have committed technical infractions of immigration
law such as paperwork errors or missed filing
deadlines on their visa applications.
But many had previously applied for permanent
residency under the same provision as Aniba -- a
since-expired 2000 law that allowed illegal immigrants
who paid a $1,000 fee to seek a green card while
living in the United States.
That law had a catch: It did not protect applicants
from deportation if they drew the attention of
immigration authorities before their green cards were
approved. Because so many immigrants rushed to apply
before the law's April 2001 deadline, their green
cards have been delayed by huge backlogs at the Labor
Department, which must approve employer sponsorships,
and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Now they are in a race against time -- pleading with
immigration judges to postpone a ruling on whether
they should be deported until their green cards come
through. The judges, however, face pressure from the
immigration system's chief judge to avoid clogging
immigration courts by issuing a final ruling on each
case within eight months of its first hearing.
"That timetable is in direct conflict with the time it
takes to get an immigrant visa petition processed,"
Falls Church immigration lawyer Antoinette J. Rizzi
Kamal Nawash agreed: "I'm down to the last 90 days
with all my clients. There are not a lot more excuses
I can use." Nawash is a Northern Virginia lawyer and a
Republican candidate for the state Senate.
Many of his clients have told him that if they lose
their cases, they will go into hiding rather than
allow themselves to be deported.
"They say if they go back now, they'll be even worse
off than when they came here," Nawash said. "Any money
they managed to save they had to spend on legal fees,
which came to thousands of dollars."
Aniba, whose lawyer got his next deportation hearing
pushed back to late September, still has a chance of
Less fortunate is Ahmed Nahaf, 25, a former travel
agent from Egypt living in Parsippany, N.J. He
overstayed his tourist visa about two years ago and
does not have a pending application for a green card.
His best option was to take a judge's offer to leave
the country "voluntarily" by September, rather than be
officially deported. Immigration attorneys say many
clients in similar positions are making that choice
because it leaves the possibility of applying for a
waiver of the three- to 10-year ban on reentering the
United States that illegal immigrants face. Illegal
immigrants who have been deported cannot appeal.
Still, that is slight consolation, Nahaf said. Unable
to find employment in Cairo, he came to the United
States to support his six younger siblings and his
parents, who are nearing retirement age at home. He
has found only odd jobs here -- the last at a Dunkin'
Donuts. But they have paid enough to allow Nahaf to
supplement his father's small salary as a clerk in a
government office and to enable the family to save
money for his sisters' weddings.
Now he is struggling to plan his next move. "It gives
me bad headaches," he said. "In Egypt there is no good
work, and it's expensive to live. But I have a
responsibility to my family. So what can I do?"
©æpg, 2003 Al Akhbar US, All Rights Reserved.