Immigration and National Security

The Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank, has published a report that says that the post-September 11 roundup of immigrants was actually bad for national security.

I haven’t read it yet, but it seems interesting because one of the authors is Doris Meissner who was INS Commissioner during the Clinton administration. Also, on their board of trustees is James Ziglar, the last INS Commissioner.

I’ll blog about it some time next week.

(Via TalkLeft.)

Illegal Immigrants and Special Registration

Special Registration is having the effects I thought it would (see here, here, here, and here). According to the New York Times:

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.

TalkLeft and Long story; short pier have argued against the deportations while Tacitus doesn’t see any problem with it (with a few caveats).

Treatment of Sept 11 Detainees

The Inspector General in the Department of Justice has issued a report criticizing the government conduct in detaining 762 people on suspicion of terrorism after September 11.

According to the report, 491 people were arrested in New York and 70 in New Jersey. The largest number (254) were from Pakistan while 111 were from Egypt. The general climate of fear I heard about whenever I visited Jersey in those days was probably due to these arrests (and I thought people were being paranoid).

It wasn’t like any of those arrested had any connection with terrorism. In fact, some arrests were just illegal immigrants the police found while looking to follow some tip (they were not being investigated).

We also found that the F.B.I. and the I.N.S. in New York City made little attempt to distinguish between aliens who were subjects of the Penttbom [F.B.I.’s investigation into the Sept 11 attacks] investigation and those encountered coincidentally to a Penttbom lead.

And some were arrested on reports that they made anti-American statements.

A Muslim man, for instance, was arrested when an acquaintance wrote to officials that the man had made “anti-American statements.” The statements “were very general and did not involve threats of violence or suggest any direct connection to terrorism,” the report found, but the man had overstayed his visa and was held.

Though the bureau’s New York office and the Central Intelligence Agency cleared the man of any terrorist connections by mid-November 2001, F.B.I. headquarters did not clear him for release from incarceration until more than three months later because of an “administrative oversight,” the report said.

A friend of mine was going to Britain a week after September 11. While at the Dallas airport, he was watching General Musharraf’s speech which was been shown on CNN. Musharraf was basically throwing in his lot with the US in the speech (one of the few wise decisions of his rule). My friend was laughing and getting agitated (he’s an excitable kind of guy) especially because the Urdu speech and CNN’s translation didn’t match. Someone reported him and he had to go through an hour of questioning and search by federal agents. Fortunately, he was let go.

The report concludes:

While recognizing the difficult circumstances confronting the department in responding to the terrorist attacks, we found significant problems in the way the Sept. 11 detainees were treated. The I.N.S. did not serve notices of the immigration charges on these detainees within the specified time frames. This delay affected the detainees in several ways, from their ability to understand why they were being held, to their ability to obtain legal counsel, to their ability to request a bond hearing.

In addition, the department instituted a policy that these detainees would be held until cleared by the F.B.I. Although not communicated in writing, this “hold until cleared” policy was clearly understood and applied throughout the department. The policy was based on the belief, which turned out to be erroneous, that the F.B.I.’s clearance process would proceed quickly. Instead of taking a few days as anticipated, the clearance process took an average of 80 days, primarily because it was understaffed and not given sufficient priority by the F.B.I.

The F.B.I.’s initial classification decisions and the untimely clearance process had enormous ramifications for the Sept. 11 detainees. The department instituted a “no bond” policy for all Sept. 11 detainees. The evidence indicates that the I.N.S. raised concerns about this blanket “no bond” approach, particularly when it became clear that the F.B.I.’s clearance process was slow and the I.N.S. had little information in many individual cases on which to base its continued opposition to bond. The I.N.S. also raised concerns about the legality of holding aliens to conduct clearance investigations after they had received final orders of removal or voluntary departure orders. We found that the department did not address these legal issues in a timely way.

[…]we found that M.D.C. [Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn, NY] staff frequently, and mistakenly, told people who inquired about a specific Sept. 11 detainee that the detainee was not held at the facility when, in fact, the opposite was true. In addition, the M.D.C.’s restrictive and inconsistent policies on telephone access for detainees prevented them from obtaining legal counsel in a timely manner.

So not only were they held for a long time, but they were held incommunicado with their families having no idea where they were. Reminds me of Pakistan, Egypt and Latin America. Way to go!

With regard to allegations of abuse, the evidence indicates a pattern of physical and verbal abuse by some correctional officers at the M.D.C. against some Sept. 11 detainees, particularly during the first months after the attacks. Although most correctional officers denied any such physical or verbal abuse, our interviews and investigation of specific complaints developed evidence that abuse had occurred.

We also concluded that, particularly at the M.D.C., certain conditions of confinement were unduly harsh, such as illuminating the detainees’ cells for 24 hours a day. Further, we found that M.D.C. staff failed to inform M.D.C. detainees in a timely manner about the process for filing complaints about their treatment.

I was wondering about what was missing from this picture. Abuse! That’s it, now all we have to do is to actually kill detainees and we’ll be even with Latin American death squads.

So what does the Justice Department have to say? May be, we are sorry? I didn’t think so.

Justice Department officials said they believed they had acted within the law in pursuing terrorist suspects. “We make no apologies for finding every legal way possible to protect the American public from further terrorist attacks,” said Barbara Comstock, a spokeswoman for the department.

Moreover, Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, whose aides handled some of the key policy decisions, was quoted in the report as saying that it was “unfair to criticize the conduct of members of my staff” during such an extraordinary period.

Unfair? So was it unfair to keep 762 men in detention for 80 days on average? Or is it unfair to criticize this guy? Which is more unfair? We report, you decide.

Via Perverse Access Memory.

Arab Americans in Michigan

An interesting post by Patrick Belton on Oxblog.

Quite simply, I fell in love with Dearborn. The largest concentration of Arabs or Muslims in the United States, it’s a study in contrasts – in between miles upon miles of depopulated Detroit blocks now filled only with commercialized sex – Dearborn appears, a small thriving colony of Middle Eastern hustle, entrepreneurship, and colour. Where everything around them is bleak, they’ve created blocks upon blocks of Lebanese restaurants, social service organizations, Arabic newspapers, small businesses, the practices of Lebanese- and British-educated physicians, lawyers, and accountants. Its colour, its bustlingness, its creativity and entrepreneurship are hard to overstate.

While it’s a commonplace to describe the Arab and Muslim communities in the U.S. as monolithic, this actually couldn’t be farther from the case. Rifts are common and frequent, and continually being patched over or exploited by different would-be leaders seeking a panethnic or more particularist base. The factional difference between Sunni and Shi’a, however, is the smallest – at the Islamic Center of America, the nation’s largest mosque, a Qom-trained Shi’a cleric named Imam Sayed Qazwini leads Friday services to a congregation that’s principally Lebanese and Sunni; Shi’a cleric Imam Elahi preaaches to a congregation which is also principally Sunni, and so on. The real rifts are ethnic.

Go read the whole thing.

Asylum in Canada

The Manifest Border, a legal blog focussed on immigration, pointed me to this story in the Washington Times:

Thousands of illegal immigrants from Middle Eastern countries are seeking asylum in Canada, massing in run-down motels and refugee sanctuaries on the U.S. side of the border, where they are sheltered —- and sometimes hidden —- from the immigration service.

Some, like Mustafa, are assisted by U.S. government-funded agencies until their hearing with Canadian officials.

[…]U.S. officials yesterday said they typically support the refugee services and that their benefits outweigh their harboring of illegals.

“It becomes a matter of how these [illegals] are being advised,” said Bill Strassberger, a spokesman for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “If they are being told to avoid the law, then it would be something we would look into.” He added that the aliens who are leaving the country are besieging refugee shelters more than the immigration service. A spokeswoman for Canada’s immigration service declined to comment on the situation.

Since fall, when the registration deadline kicked in, Freedom House, a 35-bed refugee facility at the foot of the Ambassador Bridge, has seen an increase of 275 percent in refugee claims to Canada, from 70 last year at this time to 263 this year.

“We started with Iraqis in the fall and moved on to Pakistanis” who were leaving the United States for Canada, said David Koelsch, a staff lawyer at Freedom House. Until recently, “90 percent of our work has been getting people asylum in the U.S.,” he said. “But now, they know that to go before the INS is to be deported and to be locked up in jail while they wait to be deported.” Freedom House received 63 percent of its $844,691 income last year from U.S. government grants, according to records.

An immigration official in Detroit, speaking on the condition of anonymity, did say that any U.S. agency that assists illegals in eluding registration is “helping them circumvent the law.” “We can take [illegals] in if they are not here for a valid purpose. But is not always easy finding them,” the official said.

Now, being an illegal immigrant is a separate matter, but “eluding” special registration by leaving the US before the deadline is entirely legal according to BCIS (or whichever agency replaced the INS).

CALL-IN GROUP 3 (extended 2/19/03): CITIZENS OR NATIONALS OF Pakistan or Saudi Arabia

Who Must Register (Group 3)?

If you are in this category you must register at a designated Immigration Office on or before March 21, 2003.

  • If you are a male born on or before January 13, 1987, and
  • If you were inspected by an immigration officer and last admitted to the U.S. as a nonimmigrant on or before September 30, 2002
  • If you did not have an application for asylum pending on December 18, 2002, and
  • If you will be in the U.S. at least until March 21, 2003.

So, if you leave the US before March 21 (or whatever the deadline for your group is), then you are not required to register.

Language Ability

Looking at the Census data, I came across what languages people spoke in the US and how it correlated with their speaking ability in English.

The following two tables give the percentage of people who cannot speak English well, divided based on their native language. The first table further divides the data into people born in the US or outside while the second table organizes the data according to age.

Native Language Native-born Foreign-born
Spanish 10.37% 47.99%
Other Indo-European languages 7.06% 17.65%
Asian and Pacific Island languages 8.23% 26.26%
Other languages 6.87% 12.61%

It is clear that the foreign-born population has more problems with English as was expected. However, there is a huge difference there between Spanish-speakers and others. I understand that Hispanics are probably among the poorest immigrants and also might have lower levels of education. Another contributing factor might be the presence of ethnic enclaves making it easier for those who do not speak English to survive.

I am surprised at the numbers for native-born people. That’s a pretty large number of people who do not speak English well despite being born in the US. Why is that? One can think of reasons for Spanish-speakers but what about others? Do these people go to school? Is our school system so broken?

Native Language 5-17 years 18-64 years 65 years and over
Spanish 15.20% 31.73% 40.36%
Other Indo-European languages 9.05% 12.15% 18.70%
Asian and Pacific Island languages 10.84% 21.88% 49.16%
Other languages 7.98% 9.15% 21.69%

The 65 and over group we should just ignore. Their practical life is over and they don’t have either the incentive or the inclination to learn a new language. The 18-64 years group is in the labor force. Don’t these guys have some incentive to learn English well? The speakers of Spanish and Asian (that’s East Asian) languages do not do well here. The children do much better, but then children learn languages very easily. They should be doing much better. The Spanish-speakers again are dead last.

Does anyone have any insights or studies about this topic?

In case you are wondering, I am bilingual. My first language is Urdu (similar to Hindi in the spoken form, though written in the Arabic/Persian script). Urdu is part of the Indo-European group of languages. I learned English in school starting in the first grade and went to a K-12 school and college where the medium of instruction was English. In my adult life, I have tried to learn a few languages (French, Arabic, Persian) without much success.

An Illegal Immigrant

From Dawn:

US authorities kept a nephew of President Pervez Musharraf in detention for two weeks for a visa violation, US and Pakistani officials said on Saturday.

Aamir Javed Musharraf was detained on Feb 19 and released on Friday on bail, they said. He will now have to appear before immigration judge who could order him deported or allow him to stay in the United States.

Although he had informed his family in Pakistan, “but so far nobody in the government in Islamabad contacted the embassy to help him out,” said an official at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington.

Immigration officials detained him in Memphis, Tennessee, when he went to register at a local immigration office under a programme requiring thousands of visiting men from 25 mostly Muslim countries to be photographed and fingerprinted.

Aamir Musharraf was found to have an expired tourist visa from 1994. Till early this week, about 1,700 people have been detained for at least a few days out of the 122,500 who have registered under the programme.

INS Prevented me from Blogging Yesterday

Yes, that’s true because I wasted a full day at an INS office. And all because of a mistake by INS. What happened was that my fingerprints on an INS document (done by INS officials themselves) were not identifiable. Why didn’t the INS officer who got those fingerprints checks them? I have no idea. Anyway, I had to go again to redo the form.

So I reached the INS office at 8:30am. The office had just opened and there probably had been a long line since 6am or earlier. I had to stand in line for 45 minutes outside in the cold. I could only wonder at the people who had been there earlier braving the cold. Finally, they took us into the building at 9:15am. But this wasn’t really inside, it was a small room where we lined up and waited to pass security. At 10am I was actually in the building. Now even though I had a letter from the INS, it didn’t say which room to go to, so I had to go with everyone else to the information desk. That was a big room, all filled up with people waiting in line and 4 INS people at counters helping them. It was going to be a long wait. After waiting for 2 hours, I made it to the counter. All they did was give me a wait number with estimated waiting time (until 2:18pm) and a room number to go to. So off to the new room and waiting for 2 more hours. There were 10 counters here but only 5 were being manned. I waited and waited, bored out of my mind. My turn did come around 2:15pm. I gave the INS officer my documents. Here, a mistake of mine surfaced to cause me further delay. I needed a couple of photographs and one that I had brought got ink marks from writing my name on the back (as instructed by INS). However, the INS officer told me I could get new photographs from a nearby place and return immediately. She also marked my letter so that I could get back in since the regular entrance was now closed. I ran outside and got the photos. I probably wasted 30 minutes due to this stupidity.

However, when I returned, that particluar INS officer had disappeared and I wasn’t allowed to do my paperwork with anyone else. So I waited another hour until her appearance. Finally, done with my part of the paperwork, I had to wait for them to run it through their system. I was there till 4:15pm. If you think my mistake about the photos cost me a lot of time, please consider that the guy ahead of me in the line who had similar paperwork to do got done at 4pm. At 4:15pm, waiting for the INS officer to appear with my paperwork, I was escorted by another INS officer to another floor. This was unusual since everyone else got their things back in the same room. I asked her where we were going and she said where my papers are. She took me to a small waiting room and disappeared. There was a couple over there and the woman was constantly crying. On the window, there was a notice “No Bonds accepted after 1pm”. I became a little worried at 4:30pm since INS closes at that time and I saw a lot of people going out. Finally, another INS officer came in to see me at 4:45 and asked me some really useless questions. Let’s just say that the information content in those questions and my answers was exactly zero according to Shannon. He took me back to the room I had done the paperwork in to finish the stuff, but it was closed. So he told me that half of the work is done but for the other half (not directly related) I will have to return tomorrow. There was no way I was going to waste another day, so I told him that I could wait for that part. He was OK with that since if INS does their job fast enough, I might not need it at all. I left the INS office close to 5pm. I hadn’t eaten anything all day and my wife was worried as well.

Now for some constructive criticism. INS definitely needs more staff. They cannot handle the number of people that come to their office and the amount of paperwork they have to handle. This is becoming more apparent with the special registration and other requirements of the USA PATRIOT Act. Another thing they could do is separate people who have come for information, to file applications, and as a response to an INS letter. They already separate people with appointments (the appointments are assigned by INS and cannot be requested). If they separate these categories, then a lot of the people don’t have to waste their time and the INS information counters’ time trying to find out what room to go to; instead they can go directly to the office corcerned.

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.