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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

October 18 – more than 775 people have been detained. At least 140 held on immigration violations, of those in custody, 200 are of especial interest, and they want 190 others for questioning.

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According to the INS, at least nine of the suspected hijackers were in the US legally on September 11. The agency says that four others entered legally, three of who overstayed their visas. The status of the fourth could not be determined. The INS said that it had no information at all on six of the suspects.

Thirteen of the 19 hijackers entered the US legally, two of them on student visas. At least three people had remained in the US after their visas expired. At least one, the alleged leader, Mohamed Atta, was in legal status at the time of the attacks. Officials believe eight others were also in valid status. Two had student visas that they violated by failing to appear for class, and two others were places on an FBI watch list after their entry. Two of them could have been denied visas because of prior visa violations. Six made visa applications using false names, applications that should have been denied. INS and State Department critics point to these numerous lapses as evidence that the immigration system may have aided the terrorists.

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Federal officials are investigating a number of leads that some people were discussing the attacks on the World Trade Center before September 11. According to a spokesperson for the FBI, a number of those under investigation are Arab-Americans, including one Pakistani high school student who told classmates the week before the attack that the next week, the towers would no longer be standing. The comment came during a political discussion, and was reported to the police immediately after the attacks. A number of leads indicating that some Middle Eastern employees may not have gone to work in the World Trade Center on the day of the attacks are also being investigated.

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Reports are emerging that many of those being detained for questioning in connection with the terrorist attacks are being assaulted while in detention. A 20-year-old Pakistani student says he was stripped and beaten by other inmates and guards did nothing to stop the assault. An Egyptian claims to have been abused by guards, and five Israelis say they were blindfolded and handcuffed and forced to take a lie detector test. A Saudi Arabian says that he was denied a mattress and blanket when he was first detained. Also, detainees in three Midwestern states were denied visits and telephone access during the week after the attacks, a move the INS now admits was improper. Because the government is maintaining such a high level of security around the investigation, refusing even to disclose the number of people detained, it is impossible to know how common such incidents are.

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Last summer, INS officials found a man believed to have ties to Osama bin Laden trying to sneak into the US in a tractor trailer. Despite the fact that customs agents knew he was financially involved with bin Laden, and despite an outstanding arrest warrant in Massachusetts, Nabil al-Marabh was released to Canada. Canadian officials released him on bail, and he soon reentered the US. He was arrested by the FBI in Chicago and taken into detention. Critics claim the incident shows not only a lax attitude toward border enforcement, but also more seriously, a complete lack of communication between law enforcement agencies and an indication that the threat of terrorism was not taken seriously.

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Last week INS Commissioner James Ziglar said while testifying before Congress that the agency could have a foreign student tracking system up and running in a relatively short period of time. He said that with adequate funding, a fully functional system could be in place by 2003.

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The State Department says that it is reviewing the participation of six countries in the Visa Waiver Program, but did not name which countries.

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In 1996, as past of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, Congress called for the creation of 300 new positions dedicated to dealing with the problem of visa overstays, but failed to ever provide funding for them.

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Undocumented Mexican immigrants in the US are facing a series of problems in the wake of the September 11th attacks. Not only has legalization, which seemed a certainty, been put on hold, but the sinking economy has resulted in thousands of layoffs, leaving them with a difficult decision: do they stay in the US, unemployed and ineligible for public benefits, or do they return to Mexico, where economic conditions are also suffering because of the attacks. Employment rates in the maquiladoras, assembly plants located just south of the US border, are down 20 percent from last year, and hundreds of thousands of jobs are being eliminated, creating a serious recession.


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 defender’s 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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