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That "Special Registration" Mess

by Jose Latour

This article will be of great interest to our readers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, the Sudan, and Syria. I have one friend/client who is stuck abroad right now as a result of the September 2, 2002 INS action designating citizens of these nations as subject to "special registration and monitoring." That little-publicized act on the part of the INS is causing a wake of complications for legitimate business people and their families temporarily residing in the United States.

The designation became effective on September 11, 2002, and the provisions called for the INS's fingerprinting and photographing of non-immigrants at the time that they apply for entry into the United States. The provision sounds like a minor inconvenience: in addition to the fingerprinting and photographing, re- registration is required after 30 days and after one year, as well as the individuals processing though Departure Control when they depart the United States. Knowing the history of the "Mohammed Attas," it is easy to understand the logic behind these rules. Or is it?

What the INS is failing to consider... let me rephrase that, what the politics of this nation are failing to consider... is that the September 11 terrorists came from "friendly" Arab nations such as Saudi Arabia, not from the traditionally "hostile" Arab nations listed in this particular administrative procedural rule. [A testament to Jose's semi-psychic abilities: this article was written three days before the news surfaced regarding Saudi Arabia's possible funding of two of the September 11th hijackers...] Furthermore, from a matter of practicality, neither the INS, the State Department, nor the White House fully understood that in invoking this apparently "reasonable" act of border control, the resulting bureaucratic mess will have implications creating a domino effect disrupting the lives not only of the innocent non-immigrants in question and their families, but of the hundreds of Americans employed by non- immigrant business men and women hailing from these nations. Finally, consider this: the rule is being applied not only to persons carrying the PASSPORTS of these five nations, but to persons BORN in those nations. In other words, a naturalized Canadian citizen born in one of these countries could be stuck abroad for months while renewing his or her nonimmigrant visa...

Think about that some more.

Consider my particular case: a gentlemen who carries a passport from another, totally non-targeted nation has now been stuck abroad for three months as his U.S. businesses are starting to experience severe financial setbacks as a result of his absence. While the First Tour State Department Officer is doing everything within her power to help us, the State Department has been, to date, unresponsive. Congressional inquiries have yielded no results and, so far, we're at a dead end. I'm days from getting on a plane and having to literally raise hell in Washington to rescue this man's U.S. business. If I don't succeed, some 50 American jobs will disappear as his businesses are forced to close. And the businesses are located in a rural part of America where future employment opportunities are very dismal for his employees, leaving them and their families essentially stranded in a very weak U.S. economy.

All because my client was born and spent the first few years of his life - some 30 years ago - in one of these five nations. It is absolutely inconceivable to me that there is no way in this process to distinguish between folks like my client who have been legally and admirably doing business in the United States for years, obeying the letter of the law, and who have extensive and admirable ties to their communities; and between young B-2 and F- 1 individuals coming to the U.S. for the first time with nary a clue as to what they will be doing once they get here. But such is the way of this current administration and its failure to distinguish intelligently in its quick and hasty decisiveness to crank out rules with nary a thought as to the real-world implications.

A warning for those of you from these five nations: don't even think about going abroad on even a routine visa restamp trip if you are in the United States in non- immigrant status. If you need to renew your visa or those of your dependents, do so via the State Department if your visa is renewable via that category. I have found out from the helpful consul in my particular situation that the State Department is not affording a follow-up procedure for the consular officers themselves to chase these cases and find out why on earth the promised one-month clearances are taking three to four months and longer.

I will keep you guys posted on how my Red Tape battle continues, but for the moment I'm just sitting here with smoke coming out of my ears.

About The Author

Jose Latour is the founding partner of Latour & Lleras, P.A., a Gainesville, Florida based business immigration practice working primarily with the IT industry and foreign investors. The above represents Mr. Latour's Editorial opinion. JELPA is an A/V rated firm whose web site,, is one of the Internet’s most visited immigration sites. The firm was named “ONE OF AMERICA’S TOP TEN INTERNET/VIRTUAL COMPANIES” in the 1999 Inc. Magazine and Cisco Systems “Growing with Technology Awards.” Mr. Latour served as a U.S. Diplomatic and Consular Officer in Mexico and Africa before entering private practice and today divides his time between his law practice, writing, flying, and his music.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.

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