INS Detains Hundreds of Muslim and Middle Eastern Immigrants in California

January 25, 2003

Source: The Washington Post

On January 25, 2003 The Washington Post reported that "the massive appropriations bill approved by the Senate late Thursday includes a little-noticed amendment that would cut off funding for a Justice Department program that requires male immigrants from two dozen predominantly Muslim countries to register and be fingerprinted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service... The main purpose of the amendment was to restore funding for a congressionally mandated program that by 2005 is designed to provide information on the identity of all visitors to the United States and track when they enter and leave the country... But the amendment also included language that bans the use of any of the money for the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), a program targeted at male temporary visitors from countries the government considers to be terrorist harbors... Under the NSEERS program, thousands of men older than 16 have been fingerprinted and questioned by INS agents, causing widespread confusion and apprehension among Muslims across the country. Thousands lined up at INS offices to meet a series of deadlines. More than 1,200 men who were found to be in violation of immigration laws were detained -- most of them briefly -- and face deportation hearings... The confusion and delays prompted the government to give visitors from 18 nations another chance to register. The program applies to male immigrants from 24 predominantly Muslim countries and North Korea."