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Dear Editor:

I just finished listening to National Public Radio's report on the fiasco with September 11 terrorist Mohammed Atta's visa. The gist of the report was that INS and its agents did nothing wrong in admitting Mohammed Atta to the United States or in processing Atta's visa. According to the report, Atta came into the U.S. from Spain without a valid visa, but an INS agent at secondary inspection in Miami admitted Atta anyway, apparently because on a previous trip to the United States, Atta had filed a petition to change his status from B-2 to M-1. According to the report, Atta didn't have a valid visa in his possession, but had a form showing that on his previous visit he had filed an M-1 change of status petition. During the report, one can hear Commissioner Ziglar apparently confirming that INS procedures and regulations allow INS to admit a B-2 tourist, without a valid visa, if the person has an M-1 change of status petition pending from a previous visit. Commissioner Ziglar comments on INS's actions in admitting Atta, stating "If a status change application has been filed, that is treated as not making you in an illegal situation, and it also doesn't trigger the withdrawing of the visa, as I understand it from the State Department." I was interested to hear Commissioner Ziglar's comments, because it has not been my experience that INS typically allows the procedure described in the NPR report. In fact, in my experience, if someone files a change of status petition and then departs the country, INS normally considers that application abandoned, and INS agents certainly don't usually allow aliens into the United States on tourist visas if they have documented intent to attend school, unless they have a B-2 prospective student visa. I am curious if other readers have had similar experiences. I would also be very interested to learn who at INS is educating Mr. Ziglar about INS procedures. It seems to be a shame that the new INS Commissioner seems to have been given inaccurate information about his own agency's procedures.

Margaret D. Stock, Attorney
Anchorage, AK