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INS Extends Registration Deadlines

February 15, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Deadlines for thousands of male visitors from seven mainly Muslim countries to register with U.S. immigration authorities were extended one month Friday by the Justice Department.

About 15,000 males age 16 or older from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan will have until March 21 to be fingerprinted and photographed and show certain documents at local Immigration and Naturalization Service offices. The deadline had been Feb. 21.

Another group of about 19,000 from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait will have from Feb. 24 to April 25 to register, four weeks beyond the original March 28 deadline.

The extensions come as a wave of protests has largely subsided over the program, which saw hundreds of men and boys detained when they showed up at INS offices to comply. Justice Department officials say there are 139 in custody, many of whom will be released on bond while their immigration cases are settled.

The registration program is part of a broader post-Sept. 11 effort by the INS to tighten security at U.S. borders and track down foreign visitors whose visas may have expired or who may be in the United States illegally. Seven suspected terrorists have been identified because of the program, along with 401 criminals or others who should not be permitted entry into the country, said Justice Department spokesman Jorge Martinez.

Hodan Hassan, spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic relations, said large-scale detentions of visitors from these countries have not occurred since December but that many Muslims still regard the program as discriminatory and ineffective in finding terrorists.

"There's still a lot of confusion and uncertainty about who applies. It still stigmatizes the American Muslim community," she said.

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