Snitch Visas

Via Perverse Access Memory, I found the news about snitch visas for informants about criminals and terrorists.

The logic looked impeccable: Foreign terrorists lurk among foreigners, and foreigners want to live in America. So why not give foreigners a visa in return for ratting out suspected terrorists?

The idea, it turns out, has sputtered in practice so badly in the last 15 months that some experts think it raises questions about the wisdom of this tactic in the Bush administration’s war on terrorism.

The S visas —- nicknamed “snitch visas” and good for three years of legal U.S. residence —- were granted to just 35 informants and their relatives in the fiscal year after Sept. 11.

Congress created the program in 1994 for foreign nationals living here or abroad, and since has capped the number at 200 a year for criminal informants (S-5 visas) and 50 a year for terrorism informants (S-6 visas). Immigration advocates generally welcome the program as a gesture of cooperative faith in, not antagonism toward, immigrants.

Now, generally the visa stamped on one’s passport has the visa category (S-5 or S-6 in this case) printed on there. So what happens with these S visas? Can someone open up your passport and immediately realize that you ratted out a drug dealer or a terrorist? Is that even a good idea? Also, does “S” have anything to do with “snitch” or is it just a coincidence?

INS Document Shredding Case

Previous post here.

Here is the INS side of the story:

In response to the discovery of the document destruction, those who had filed applications and petitions at the California Service Center but had not yet received a receipt for their applications were urged to call a hotline at the Center to inquire about the status of their cases (1-949-831-8427). Applicants and petitioners who had received receipts during the period in question could also call the hotline to check the status of their cases. Where cases could not be found, applicants were then assisted in reconstructing their cases for processing by the Center. Also, INS re-mailed to applicants all requests for additional information that were sent out during the period in which the shredding took place.

INS gets rid of backlog

From the NY Times:

Tens of thousands of pieces of mail come into the huge Immigration and Naturalization Service data processing center in Laguna Niguel, Calif., every day, and as at so many government agencies, it tends to pile up. One manager there had a system to get rid of the vexing backlog, federal officials say. This week the manager was charged with illegally shredding as many as 90,000 documents.

Among the destroyed papers, federal officials charged, were American and foreign passports, applications for asylum, birth certificates and other documents supporting applications for citizenship, visas and work permits.

The manager, Dawn Randall, 24, was indicted late Wednesday by a federal grand jury, along with a supervisor working under her, Leonel Salazar, 34. They are accused of ordering low-level workers to destroy thousands of documents from last February to April to reduce a growing backlog of unprocessed paperwork.

Ain’t that grand!


INS Problems

I can tell you a lot of horror stories of INS bungling, but I’ll desist for now and point out a post on Ginger Stampley’s blog. She is one of the few bloggers who knows something about immigration issues.

It’s difficult for an alien to follow the law when nobody knows what it is, and the interpretation of the laws and regulation are totally at the discretion (read: whim) of the INS flunky you’re currently dealing with. And even if you follow those instructions in good faith, the next INS flunky you deal with may still throw you in jail or out of the country for failing to meet a different interpretation of the applicable laws and/or regulations.

It’s considered bad form to ask “why do they hate us?”, but it would take a real idiot to miss that the INS’ inept handling of student visas and special registration (among its many other flaws) does not endear the US to anyone who’s had to deal with it, alien or citizen.

Special Registration Questionnaire

AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association) has the list of standard questions being asked of all special registrants. Seems fairly innocuous.

Deported Pakistanis: Illegal Immigrants

The New York Times has a story on some Pakistanis who were deported after September 11. All of them were illegal immigrants, so they do not get any sympathy from me for their plight. In my opinion, an illegal immigrant should face the consequences of his action including deportation. For this story, INS and the Department of Justice did not comment on the individual cases, so all the information is from the Pakistanis, which definitely makes me wonder how much to believe. Anyway, here are some bizarre excerpts from the article:

Government officials later told Mr. Mehmood’s lawyer that F.B.I. agents who searched his home had found a license to carry hazardous materials, box cutters, a flight simulator program and three Pakistani passports in his name. But neither he nor any of the other men were charged with terror-related offenses.

Mr. Mehmood said he had explanations. His trucking company required him to have the hazardous materials license, he said. He used the box cutters on the job, he said. The flight simulator program was used by his children, and two of the passports were expired, and one was valid, he said.

I don’t know about licenses for hazardous materials, so I’ll leave that alone. But what do they mean by boxcutters? Did he have two boxcutters? Or a hundred? Is it illegal to have a few boxcutters in your home? What exactly is a flight simulator program? Do they mean something like Microsoft Flight Simulator or Falcon IV (which I absolutely love despite sucking at it)? And if they found three different valid passports, why wasn’t he prosecuted for that? However, if his explanation for the passports is correct, then that’s nothing usual and shouldn’t have been mentioned. I am more confused as I think about this. Hearing the other side (INS) would definitely help.

This got my blood boiling:

All scoffed at the notion that their detention produced valuable intelligence. They described undergoing only cursory interviews by F.B.I. or I.N.S. agents: Do you like Osama bin Laden? Can you fly a plane? Do you pray five times a day? [emphasis mine]

Did the FBI really ask this? How dare they? If I had been asked this or similar questions when I was interviewed by the FBI, I would have told them to fuck off (who am I kidding? I would probably have said “none of your business.”) Here again, we have heard only from illegal immigrants who were deported and have a vested interest in trying to look good. However, I would still like an explanation from the FBI or the department of Justice stating what kind of questions were asked of these persons and all the others who have been interviewed. I would also like all the people who were asked about their religious beliefs and practice to come forward so that we can find out the truth.

UPDATE here.

Special Registration: Turning a blind eye to violations

The Pakistani Ambassador to the US, Javed Ashraf Qazi, met with Ashcroft regarding the special registration of Pakistanis by INS.

[The Ambassador] asked Ashcroft to allow Pakistani nationals to take advantage of a general amnesty announced by the Clinton administration in 2000.

Qazi also demanded sympathetic treatment for those Pakistani students and workers who had come to America legally but might have later committed minor offences.

He urged the US administration to help divided families, and those who had married American nationals, in legalizing their status in the US.

[…]The ambassador emphasized the need to ensure that those Pakistanis who had cases pending for adjustment of status with the INS, were not detained or put into deportation proceedings, APP adds. Similarly, he requested that Pakistani nationals holding F1 and H1 visas be treated with dignity and respect and that minor blemishes on their records be condoned.

He proposed that all Pakistanis who were residents of the US and had no blemishes on their records should be given the opportunity to regularize their status.

Even though I think special registration is not useful for national security, the ambassador’s demands are wrong and stupid. Asking the INS to ignore violation of immigration laws is fraught with problems. I believe that they should enforce immigration laws the best they can, otherwise it would just become mockery of the law. I would definitely prefer those laws to be applied to everyone regardless of national origin, but the law must still be applied to those going for special registration.

NOTE: I just found out that special registration is for nationals and citizens of the countries listed. INS defines them as:

Citizen: A person owing allegiance to and entitled by birth or naturalization to the protection of a state.

National: A person owing permanent allegiance to a state.

Does that mean someone who was born in Pakistan but is no longer a Pakistani citizen has to register as well?