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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

Attack on America - Immigration Update
by Greg Siskind and Amy Ballentine

As the investigation into the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania continues, law enforcement agencies are slowly piecing together a case. Much of the information remains classified for security reasons, but much information is also public. Each week we will follow the investigation as it focuses of foreign nationals suspected of involvement in the plot.

This week the Justice Department announced that 13 immigrants have been charged with immigration violations, bringing the total number of people so charged to 46. A total of 142 people are being detained on immigration issues. Neither the 13 charged this week, nor anyone else being held for immigration reasons, have been charged in relation to the September 11 attacks.

It has been revealed that the in the days just before the September 11 attacks, the Department of Justice rejected a request from the FBI to search the computer of a person now being detained as a material witness in the investigation into the attacks. When it was searched after the attacks, the computer owned by Zacarias Moussaoui contained information about jetliners and crop dusting planes, leading the government to temporarily ground crop-dusters. Moussaoui is reportedly not cooperating with authorities. He was first taken into INS custody in August, after a request to be taught how to fly but not to land. He was detained for immigration violations, and was in jail on September 11. Officials say that in 1999 the French government placed Moussaoui on a watch list of people who might be affiliated with militant Islamic groups.

The massive investigation into the terrorist attacks has created numerous tensions in Arab and Muslim communities in the US. Nearly everyone who has been questioned is Arabic and many feel that people are being targeted because of their appearance. A recent meeting between Islamic leaders and the FBI in Paterson, New Jersey attempted to address some of these concerns. Among other things, the Muslim leaders stressed that suspicion should not arise based on misunderstandings of cultural norms, such as the hesitancy of a Muslim woman to make eye contact with men. FBI agents said that such information is helpful to them and should make it easier for them to work within Arab-American communities. Paterson is one of the focal points of the investigation because two of the suspected hijackers rented an apartment there. Members of the areaís Islamic community say that they were unaware of the men who were not active members of the areaís Islamic organizations.

The descriptions of encounters given by people who have been detained for questioning regarding the September 11 terrorist attacks differ substantially from what the INS says is occurring. Many say that they were not asked questions dealing with the attacks, but were asked only general questions about their feelings toward the US, and in many cases, about their immigration status. Attorneys are wondering whether there is any evidence to justify the questioning of their clients, or whether their clients are being questioned simply because of their ethnicity and the fact that they came to the attention of law enforcement in one way or another.

Indeed, some of those who had been detained say that the officials questioning them were under pressure to hold people even if there was no basis to think they were involved in the attacks. It is becoming clear that a number of people questioned were targeted because of their appearance. One example of this is the case of Sher Singh, a US citizen originally from India. He was detained after being removed from a train on September 12 when authorities noticed him because he was wearing a turban, as required by his membership in the Sikh religion. Singh says that during the seven-hour search of the train, a crowd of reporters gathered and that because of it, the law enforcement agents told him that they would have to take someone into detention. He said that they never treated him like they thought he had anything to do with the attacks.

Sami Al-Arian, a professor at the University of South Florida, has been placed on paid leave after receiving threats following an appearance on TV. Al-Arian, an Egyptian national who was born in Palestine, is the brother in law of Mazen Al-Najjar, who was also a professor at the University until he was detained by the INS more than three years ago. Al-Najjar was held for more than three years without criminal charges being filed, on the basis of secret evidence the government claimed showed he was engaged in terrorist activities. In December of last year, a federal judge ordered him released, finding the evidence an inadequate basis for his detention. At the time, some believed that the government was more interested in the activities of Al-Arian than Al-Najjar. In the mid-1990s, Al-Arian had been suspended from teaching while the FBI investigated a think-tank he ran. After the investigation failed to uncover any evidence of wrongdoing, he was reinstated


About The Author

Gregory Siskind has experience handling all aspects of immigration and nationality law and has represented numerous clients throughout the world. Mr. Siskind provides consultations to corporations and individuals on immigration law issues and handles cases before the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of State, the Department of Labor and other government agencies. Gregory Siskind is also committed to community service. He regularly provides free legal services to indigent immigration clients and speaks at community forums to offer information on immigration issues.

After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, Gregory Siskind went on to receive his law degree from the University of Chicago. For the past several years, he has been an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and he currently serves as a member of the organization's Technology Committee. He is the current committee chair for the Nashville Bar Association's International Section. Greg is a member of the American Bar Association where he serves on the LPM PublishGregory Siskind has experience handling all aspects of immigration and nationality law and has represented numerous clients throughout the world. Mr. Siskind provides consultations to corporations and individuals on immigration law issues and handles cases before the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of State, the Department of Labor and other government agencies. Gregory Siskind is also committed to community service. He regularly provides free legal services to indigent immigration clients and speaks at community forums to offer information on immigration issues.

Greg regularly writes on the subject of immigration law. He has written several hundred articles on the subject and is also the author of the new book The J Visa Guidebook, published by Matthew Bender and Company, one of the nation's leading legal publishers. He is working on another book for Matthew Bender on entertainment and sports immigration.

Greg is also, in many ways, a pioneer in the use of the Internet in the legal profession. He was one of the first lawyers in the country (and the very first immigration lawyer) to set up a web site for his practice. And he was the first attorney in the world to distribute a firm newsletter via e-mail listserv. Mr. Siskind is the author of the American Bar Association's best selling book, The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. He has been interviewed and profiled in a number of leading publications and media including USA Today, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Lawyers Weekly, the ABA Journal, the National Law Journal, American Lawyer, Law Practice Management Magazine, National Public Radio's All Things Considered and the Washington Post. As one of the leading experts in the country on the use of the Internet in a legal practice, Greg speaks regularly at forums across the United States, Canada and Europe.

In his personal life, Greg is the husband of Audrey Siskind and the proud father of Eden Shoshana and Lily Jordana. He also enjoys collecting rare newspapers and running in marathons and triathlons. He can be reached by email at GSiskind@visalaw.com

Amy Ballentine is an associate in Siskind, Susser & Haas's Memphis, Tennessee office. She graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Rhodes College in 1994. While in law school at the University of Memphis she was a member of the law review staff as well as a published author. She also worked with the local public defenderís office in death penalty cases. In May 1999, she graduated Cum Laude from the University of Memphis Law School. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She can be reached by email at aballentine@visalaw.com



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