INS extends deadline for registration

5 Arab, Muslim nations added to watched visitors

January 16, 2003|By R. Alonso-Zaldivar | R. Alonso-Zaldivar,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WASHINGTON - Men from Arab and Muslim countries who missed recent deadlines to register with immigration authorities will get a second chance, but the controversial reporting requirement will be extended to more nationalities, the Justice Department was to announce today.

According to official notices readied for publication in the Federal Register, men from Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, Indonesia and Bangladesh will now have to register with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Men from 18 other countries who missed previous registration deadlines will have another opportunity to report between Jan. 27 and Feb. 7, without facing a penalty for having failed to come forward.

"As an act of grace, and as an act that is entirely within the attorney general's discretion, the attorney general has decided to permit those individuals who were required to register [previously] but who did not do so, an additional opportunity to register and provide information in a timely fashion," the INS said.

The registration was launched last year by Attorney General John Ashcroft to improve haphazard tracking of foreign visitors.

Part of the government's effort to prevent more terrorist attacks, the program gained national notoriety after hundreds of men were detained in the first phase of registration last month.

None was a terrorist.

The requirement applies to male visitors, age 16 and older, who entered the country before Sept. 30, 2002, and intend to remain. Women, green-card holders, naturalized U.S. citizens and people who have received political asylum are exempt.

"The fact that they are giving this extended deadline shows that they were not equipped to handle the earlier groups," said Kareem Shora, a lawyer with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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