More than 13,000 of the Arab and Muslim men who came forward earlier this year to register with immigration authorities —- roughly 16 percent of the total —- may now face deportation, government officials say.
Only a handful have been linked to terrorism. But of the 82,000 men older than 16 who registered, more than 13,000 have been found to be living in this country illegally, officials say.
Many had hoped to win leniency by demonstrating their willingness to cooperate with the campaign against terror. The men were not promised special treatment, however, and officials believe that most will be expelled in what is likely to be the largest wave of deportations after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The government has initiated deportation proceedings, and in immigrant communities across the country, an exodus has already begun.
Now I have argued before that the government should not turn a blind eye to immigration violations by special registrants even if it does not enforce immigration laws in general.
Quietly, the fabric of neighborhoods is thinning. Families are packing up; some are splitting up. Rather than come forward and risk deportation, an unknowable number of immigrants have burrowed deeper underground. Others have simply left —- for Canada or for their homeland.
Remember these are 13,000 men. So the number of people affected is higher.
Also, these are people who had some interest in the system. People who had immigration violations in their record, but wanted to stay on the right side of the law and hopefully become a legal immigrant. The true illegals have no such incentive and did not register.
A consequence of this policy is that never again will there be voluntary special registration. No one who has any blemish on their immigration record will go by himself to the BICE.
“What the government is doing is very aggressively targeting particular nationalities for enforcement of immigration law,” said Lucas Guttentag, director of the immigrants’ rights project at the American Civil Liberties Union. “The identical violation committed by, say, a Mexican immigrant is not enforced in the same way.”
The interest of justice is not served by enforcing any law selectively. I agree that we should enforce our immigration laws but they must be enforced for everyone.
Another way in which this policy will harm our national interest is by word of mouth and media all over the world. These families will tell their tale of selective enforcement of the law and from their point of view their persecution by the INS and that meme will spread in their native countries. In fact, it already has.