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Group 4 Special Registration Deadline And Other Developments Since The War

by Cyrus D. Mehta

The special registration deadline for Group 4 countries is April 25, 2003. Males who are 16 years of age or older and who are nationals or citizens of Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan or Kuwait, and were present in the US before October 1, 2002, must register by April 25, 2003.

The individuals who need to register must have entered before October 1, 2002, on nonimmigrant visas such as a student, tourist or work visa. It applies to people who are in status as well as those who are out of status. Special registration does not apply to US citizens, green card holders, refugees, asylum applicants, asylum grantees, and diplomats or others admitted under A or G visas. Nor does it apply to people who did not enter as nonimmigrants. Thus, those who entered without inspection or on advance parole need not register.

Special registration applies to nationals or citizens of the above-mentioned countries even though they are planning to leave the US before April 25, 2003. Prior to the deadline extension, citizens or nationals of Group 4 countries had to register by March 28, 2003. If they left before March 28, 2003, they were not subject to registration.

When the Group 4 deadline was extended to April 25, the March 28 cut off date was not changed in the Federal Register Notice. Therefore, Group IV citizens or nationals who have not left the US by March 28 and are planning to leave before April 25 are still advised to register.1

Some of the most sympathetic examples of the harsh impact of special registration can be seen on young male minors who are in school or college. They came into the US with their parents on visitor visas when very young. Their visa status lapsed along with their parents. They are now doing extremely well in school and realize that they have to register. Many of these kids are also realizing that they do not have a valid visa.

The consequences are likely to be disastrous for them as well as their families when they register. As these children have no status, they will be issued a notice to appear before an immigration judge. At the first hearing, they will not be able to present any form of relief and will be either deported or asked to voluntary leave the US by a certain date. This will severely disrupt their education in the US. While the male child is subject to deportation, his sister or mother will not be as women are not subject to special registration and less likely to be apprehended for being illegally in the US. Once the male child goes back to his country of origin, he will feel totally alienated in a country that he has not been associated with for a very long time. Unlike a male adult, who may have already be in the pipeline for a green card through employment, and stave off deportation, a teenager in school or college would not have the same ability.

Operation Liberty Shield

Since the war against Iraq, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the detention of asylum seekers of certain nationalities as part of “Operation Liberty Shield.” The new detention policy does not apply to affirmative asylum applicants who are already in the US. It will apply to people who arrive unlawfully into the US and apply for asylum at a port of entry.

Even prior to Operation Liberty Shield, such asylum seekers were detained. However, once they passed the initial credible fear interview, many were released on parole if they did not pose a danger to the community and met other criteria such as the individual’s ties to the community.

As a result of Operation Liberty Shield, asylum seekers from Iraq and unspecified countries where Al-Qaeda is thought to be present will now be kept detained for an average of six months according to the DHS fact sheet. While there will be limited humanitarian exceptions permitting release, the DHS fact sheet provides no information on what will be considered as such exception.

FBI Can Detain For Immigration Violations

Finally, under an order of Attorney General Ashcroft, prior to the transfer of immigration services to the DHS, FBI and US Marshals can now detain foreign nationals for alleged immigration violations in cases where there is not enough evidence to hold them on criminal charges. According to a Washington Post article (Eggen, Rules on Detention Widened, March 20, 2003, A11), this order could be put into wide use over the duration of the war when the FBI launches a wartime contingency plan that will include interviews with thousands of Iraqi nationals living in the US. Dozens of those immigrants, including some believed to be sympathetic to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein are likely to be arrested on suspicion that they have violated immigration laws, according to the Washington Post article. One wonders whether the FBI would consider an Iraqi’s anti-war position to equate with sympathy for Hussein.

Historically, the functions of law enforcement agents and immigration officers have been kept separate in part to encourage illegal immigrants to report crimes without fear of detention or deportation. The new order to arrest immigrants suspected of violating immigration laws will breach the historic wall that has long separated federal law enforcers from immigration officers.

Special registration, Operation Liberty Shield and the widening powers of the FBI to detain suspected Iraqi sympathizers result in nationality or religion being used as a proxy for individualized suspicion and guilt. This strategy does not necessarily improve our security, while it creates anger and resentment among people who share the American dream. Thus far, we have not received any specific information as to whether the Call-In Registration Program has led to the apprehension or conviction of a terrorist. Indeed, during a debate in Congress on April 3, 2003, Rep. Turner (D-TX) said, “I think it is important that we look at the entry/exit system which is not designed to prevent individuals from entering or leaving the United States, it simply makes a record of their entry and exit. It is doubtful that it has much utility in enforcing our immigration laws.”2

Operation Liberty Shield would authorize the detention of asylum seekers who present no security risk whatsoever and who otherwise merit release from detention. Jailing these refugees, based solely on their nationality, during the pendency of their immigration proceedings would further traumatize many who continue to suffer the effects of the persecution and mistreatment they fled. It is also disappointing that the DHS in its first major immigration-related announcement labeled refugees seeking asylum here as threats to our security.

The new powers given to the FBI are part of a pattern since September 11, 2001, in which the government uses minor violations of immigration law as a pretext for preventive detention. These detention practices have largely focused on non-citizens who are predominantly from Muslim countries.

1However, a Department of Justice Fact Sheet accompanying the Group 4 Extension Federal Register Notice indicates that registration only applies to those who remain in the US until April 25, 2003.

2His remarks are available at,0404-funding.shtm

About The Author

Cyrus D. Mehta, a graduate of Cambridge University and Columbia Law School, practices immigration law in New York City. He is First Vice Chair of the American Immigration Law Foundation and recipient of the 1997 Joseph Minsky Young Lawyers Award. He is also Chair of the Immigration and Nationality Law Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. He frequently lectures on various immigration subjects at legal seminars, workshops and universities and may be contacted at 212-425-0555 or

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