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Dear Editor:
The article posted on Immigration News Monthly on October 12 described the NSEERS (National Security Entry-Exit Registration System) program that required “special registration” for nonimmigrant nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Syria. At that time I stated: “I am skeptical about the current tendency to ‘profile’ certain nationalities.” Since writing those words, things have gone from bad to worse.

On November 6, 2002 the Department of Justice (DOJ) published a rule requiring nonimmigrant aliens from the listed countries who had been admitted to the US before September 10, 2002 and would remain until at least December 16, 2002 to register with the INS by the latter date. The registration requirement is gender-based, and limited to males from the listed countries age 16 or above. Willful failure to comply with the registration requirement would render the alien deportable. A departure from the U.S. without having first reported to the INS will make the alien presumptively inadmissible. These are extremely harsh and punitive measures for someone whose only “fault” was to have been born in one of the listed countries. And what does it do to the aliens who were just going about their nonimmigrant affairs and not reading the Federal Register every other day, and so never heard of the requirements?

On November 22, 2002, the DOJ published another rule vastly expanding the list of suspect countries to include Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Nationals of these countries who were last admitted as nonimmigrants before September 10. 2002 and will remain until January 10. 2003 must register by that latter date.

Has the DOJ lost its perspective altogether in leaping from five suspect countries to eighteen? Why stop there? Why not include France, the country from which Zacarias Moussaoui, the “twentieth hijacker,” entered? Or Germany, where in Hamburg Mohammad Atta perfected his plans? And isn’t it interesting that Saudi Arabia, where most of the hijackers hailed from, is not on the list? That couldn’t have anything to do with oil, could it? This alphabet soup of “special registration” nationalities will not make us safer, and will only have the unfortunate effect of confusing immigration with terrorism. By all means, let us make it more difficult for aliens to learn to handle weapons or fly planes. But if they are law-abiding visitors, students, and temporary workers, let’s leave them alone. If we don’t, our country will start to resemble theirs.

Carl R. Baldwin