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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

Since the investigation into the September 11th attacks began, at least 1,182 people have been questioned or detained, according to the Justice Department. At least 185 of these people are in INS custody, primarily because of immigration status violations.

According to the White House, most of those who were detained have been released. However, the Justice Department directly contradicts this statement, saying that most still remain in custody. Contacted for clarification, White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer said that his initial comments referred only to people who were facing potential criminal charges, and not those detained as material witnesses or on immigration status violations.

The large number of people being detained is beginning to cause international concern. The United Nations special investigator for torture this week expressed concern. Sir Nigel Rodley, who is also a British law professor, said that it is important that detainees be allowed regular contact with an attorney so that any potential mistreatment can be avoided. Rodley says he has not heard of any specific allegations of abuse of detainees during interrogation, but says that given the situation, precautions need to be taken. In addition, Rodley shares others concern that the US may send detainees to other countries where legal protections are not so extensive. The Justice Department says that everyone detained has been offered free legal assistance.

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Officials have confirmed that 15 of the 19 suspected hijackers obtained US visas in Saudi Arabia. Saudi officials have insisted that the men who obtained the visas likely engaged in identity theft, and that there is no way of knowing if they really were Saudi citizens. Because Saudi Arabians have a good record of being at a low risk for visa violations, obtaining a tourist visa is a routine matter, often handled through a travel agency. Only about three percent of applications are rejected, compared to a worldwide rejection rate of about 25 percent. State Department officials say that the name of each person was run through a computer database and showed no cause for concern, adding that this reflects not a failure in visa procedures but in intelligence gathering and sharing.

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Representatives of a number of foreign governments are expressing concern about the treatment of their citizens caught up in the investigation into the attacks. According to diplomats, about 300 Saudi Arabians and nearly 200 Egyptians have been detained. The diplomats are concerned that law enforcement authorities are not notifying consulates of the detentions, and that their citizens are being held for unreasonably long periods of time. Officials with the Pakistani embassy say that they did not know of the detention of Rafiq Butts until reporters called to ask about his death while in custody. Following this incident, hundreds of detainees were released, leaving less than 200 remaining in custody. It is believed that there are about 40 Egyptians in custody, along with 19 Yemenis, six Pakistanis, five Israelis, four Salvadorans, two Jordanians, two Indians and two Moroccans. At least seven embassies have lodged formal complaints with the State Department. Under the United Nations Vienna Convention, people detained in a foreign country must be informed of their right to contact their consulate. Law enforcement officials in the US have a long history of being unaware of the requirement.

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Attorney General John Ashcroft recently announced that three of the people detained in the wake of the terrorist attacks are believed to have had advance knowledge of the attacks. The three, Karim Koubriti, Ahmen Hannan, and Youssef Hmimssa, were arrested in Michigan shortly after the attacks. Law enforcement officials found airport diagrams and fraudulent immigration documents in their home.

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While the conditions in which the detainees are being held largely remain as unknown as most of the detainees, it is know that in a Brooklyn, New York prison, detainees who have not been charged with any crime are being held in solitary confinement, allowed only one phone call a week. This news prompted seven Democratic lawmakers, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), to write a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft in which they ask him to reveal the names of those being held and the charges on which they are detained.

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According to the US ambassador to Canada, Paul Celucci, the US and Canada could have a joint system for preventing potential terrorists from entering the two counties within the next year. While Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien has so far been hesitant to support such an idea, fearing that it might force a change in Canadian immigration policies, many believe that continued delays on the border will force some sort of cooperation.

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While Canadian officials continue to view the idea of a North American security perimeter with skepticism, Mexican President Vicente Fox is embracing the idea. At a recent press conference, Fox proposed that the US, Canada and Mexico develop a single security policy to deal with aviation, customs and immigration, as well as drug trafficking.

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The Social Security Administration recently revealed that all 19 of the suspected hijackers had Social Security numbers, and that at least 13 of them had obtained the numbers legally. Speaking before the House Ways and Means Committee, an agency spokesperson said that they would improve procedures for issuing the numbers.


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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