Special Registration: Pros and Cons

Suman Palit of the Kolkata Libertarian has two posts on the pros and cons of the special registration process:

If I were a de-facto emigrant from Pakistan, like someone on a H1-B work visa or a F-1 student visa, or a J-1 exchange visa, or even a B-1 business traveller visa, I would be worried and incensed by this ruling. It’s the result of the same kind of illogic that characterizes typical gun-ban arguments. (Criminals are using guns to commit crimes, so lets ask all gun owners to register their guns so that we can pretend that we know when a gun is used in a violent crime, er.. okay then)

Pakistanis with legitimate visas are already in the INS database. They have jobs, Social Security numbers. They are the ones actually going to class, earning PhDs, teaching American kids on their way. They are possible future immigrants whose loyalty and faith in the American dream must be nurtured, not hobbled and caged by unwarranted suspicion. Asking them to “register” is a fools errand for the INS. A way for the bozos with Homeland Security to pretend they are doing “something”.. after all, “something” must be done to make this country safer. Must it not..?

What makes the INS think that if there are Pakistani immigrants with visions of blowing up the Mall of America, that these men are going to comply with this ruling? What makes the INS think they can actually track them down if they fail to register. You have to wonder whether this program is a ploy to cover up INS and FBI intelligence failures of the past. This is an organization that renewed visas for the WTC bombers after 9/11. This is the organization that Americans are supposed to put their faith in? This is the organization that Americans from Pakistan are supposed to trust?

[…]The percentage of the demographic likely to comply with this ruling are going to be people with the most to lose by being deported. Students and temporary workers looking forward to converting their non-immigrant visas into immigrant visas. In other words, the ones who are least likely to be involved, even tangentially, with any terrorist sleeper cells.

[…]The INS has limited resources. Interviewing several thousand men from over twenty countries is going to be an expensive proposition. Creating, maintaining and ultimately effectively sifting through this database of information is not a one-time effort. It’s an ongoing expense with little benefit.

This program is going to generate a large number of false positives. Imagine if you will, a slightly nervous 20-year old, being interviewed by people he is certain don’t like him much.. They ask him if he knows anyone named Adil Pervez. He tells them he has two uncles in Pakistan with that name. The INS interviewer gets all excited, calls the FBI in. The FBI then pursues a lengthy investigation and finds out that one of these men is an invalid living in Peshawar, the other is a businessman now in London. But now the kid has been flagged. He may or may not be telling the whole truth.. right? Maybe the kid gets deported. Just in case, you know..? Keeping the country safe, that’s all.

If we are to win the long-term war against Islamic Fundamentalism, then we need to find ways to engage the Muslim community in a serious debate that will have to include the sensitive and highly-charged subject of Islamic reformation. Programs of registration like the one currently proposed is going to set the debate back by a generation. We do not have the luxury of that much time. We need the Muslim community on our side, and we need to find ways to encourage them to be front-line troops in this war. Not cannon fodder for bureaucrats looking to cover up flaws in their organizations and their procedures.

Just being back from Pakistan, the one question I got from everyone was about special registration. Everyone was worried and incensed because of it. Even though there is huge anti-American sentiment in Pakistan right now (more on my impressions from Pakistan later), that doesn’t mean we should take actions that anger Pakistanis more, especially things that that don’t really add to our security.

By Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer