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U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing for January 22 -- Transcript

Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 22, 2003

[ ... ]

QUESTION: Thank you, Richard. This is Arshad with the Daily Inqilab in Bangladesh. In the wake of the recent INS deployment of registration of Bangladeshis, hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis living in the United States are having this nightmare, and the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh would scheduled to meet Secretary of State Colin Powell on Friday, coming Friday.

What is the position of the State Department and just to elevate this concern among the Bangladeshis who are a front-ranking ally of the United States, and it almost became like a bolt from the blue?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's quite a bolt from the blue. We have talked over the last several months about the need for the United States to have some system that lets us know who's in our country and where they're going and what they're doing on a periodic basis. We're all familiar with traveling in other countries. Many countries have this kind of system. Some countries you have to report every night. The hotel reports every night who you are and where you are.

So it's not quite a system like that, but it is a system so that we can have a way of knowing who's in our country. And it's been part of US law and something that's being implemented now on a progressive basis.

It's not directed against any particular country or any group of particular nationals. Bangladeshis shouldn't feel themselves singled out, nor should Pakistanis, nor should others. And gradually, it will be applied broader and broader to people of many, many nationalities.

We do recognize the procedure causes inconvenience. We're working to keep that inconvenience to a minimum. But we do, again, think it's very necessary for the United States and for the security of all those who come here, whether they live here permanently or they come for temporary reasons, for us to maintain appropriate control over our borders, to have the best possible security system so that people who come to the United States are not subject to terrorist attack.

QUESTION: Is it across the board -- will it be across-the-board situation? All -- most of the countries would be part of this process? Or is it a process just only for a --

MR. BOUCHER: I think you'd have to ask the Immigration Service how many countries there are now and where it will eventually go. The legal requirement, or the legal authorization, I think, is to be able to keep track of any people who are here.

QUESTION: Thank you.

[ ... ]

[ End ]