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US Justice Dept. Announces New Requirements for Some Foreign Visitors - 2002-08-13

The U.S. Department of Justice will initiate new security restrictions that will require fingerprinting at U.S. entry points for foreign visitors from countries on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist-sponsoring states.

Starting September 11, tourists, students or businessmen from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria who are granted visas to enter the United States will be photographed and fingerprinted when they enter the country.

Justice Department spokesman Jorge Martinez said visitors from other countries will also be fingerprinted if U.S. authorities believe they pose what he describes as an elevated national security risk.

"Basically, once the person is determined to fit the criteria that we have agreed to, that person will be fingerprinted and matched against a data base, both a criminal data base and a known terrorist data base to determine whether they are in that system," pointed out Mr. Martinez. "They will be photographed and required to register at entry and at exit."

Mr. Martinez said the new surveillance system is part of enhanced security measures put into place following last year's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Attorney General John Ashcroft emphasized the new rules provide what he calls a vital line of defense in the war against terrorism.

Immigration activists voice concerns the new measures unfairly target Muslims from the Middle East. Mr. Martinez rejects any charges of racial profiling.

Douglas Rivlin of the National Immigration Forum questions the effectiveness of the new rules in deterring determined criminals or terrorists. "It seems that, rather than this being a real measure that will make us more secure," he said, "it's another tool in the attorney general's arsenal to detain or deport people for whom he has suspicions but no tangible or provable or publicly disclosable evidence of wrongdoing or connection with terrorist acts, real or imagined."

The new security rules also require visitors from the targeted countries to check in with authorities periodically during their U.S. stay and to leave from designated exit ports, which have not yet been named.