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visa regulations

U.S. Will Seek to Fingerprint Visas' Holders: The Justice Department will propose new regulations this week requiring tens of thousands of Muslim and Middle Eastern visa holders to register with the government and be fingerprinted, administration officials said today. The initiative, the subject of intense debate within the administration, is designed for "individuals from countries who pose the highest risk to our security," including most visa holders from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and many other Muslim nations, officials said. More than 100,000 foreigners, including students, workers, researchers and tourists, all foreigners from designated countries who do not hold green cards, would probably be covered by the plan, an official said. [...] civil liberties and Arab-American groups expressed outrage at the proposed requirements, arguing that such a policy was a blatant example of racial and ethnic profiling. "What's the logic of this?" said Jeanne Butterfield, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "Anyone who's truly dangerous is not going to show up to be registered." James J. Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, a policy organization, said the registration plan would be "an overtly discriminatory, inefficient and ineffective way to deal with the problem."

From the Washington Post, Wednesday, June 5: The proposal produced an immediate objection from Rep. John Conyers (Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. "It is shocking that the freest nation on earth could engage in a system of racial and ethnic profiling," he said. "It is as though the equal protection clause had no meaning or context whatsoever to the authors of this Orwellian proposal."

You know what I don't quite understand? Why doesn't Justice simply require all visitors to this country -- excepting Canada, Mexico and whatever Caribbean nations that we have that sort of agreement with currently -- to provide this information before they come here? Yes, it would be a lot more work. But frankly, it would short-circuit the predictable (and quite true) complaints of racial and ethnic profiling, such as those made by Representative Conyers. And hey! Might even realize that there are criminals and terrorists from other countries that perhaps, just perhaps, we don't want to let in. (Although the concept of, say, a Swedish terrorist boggles the mind.) Of course, it would require all visitors from those countries to apply at the US consulate in that country for a visa ... oh, wait! they already do! Which means that the objection about airport backlogs is a red herring; it would (or at least should) be handled earlier in the system by either allowing or refusing the visa application itself.

That said ... unless INS or its successor agencies puts in place a database with information on terrorists and criminals, provided from other countries as well as those already known, it won't do a lick of good. Currently, all those things need to be manually checked, especially since the information needed by INS is in FBI and CIA databases, and INS is resisting getting an effective database system that would efficiently collate the information from those agencies.

THAT said ... as one of the lawmakers of our fair land, Mr Conyers might wish to acquaint himself with some of the finer nuances of Constitutional law. To wit, most constitutional protections do not apply to people who are neither residents nor citizens of the United States. They certainly don't apply when you're not here yet. He might wish to reserve his high horse for another issue where it might be put to better use.

Posted by iain at June 05, 2002 01:59 PM


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