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Anniversary of US Immigration Policy Met with Demonstrations - 2003-11-18


Dozens of demonstrators in New York are calling on the Bush administration to repeal a program that requires male immigrants from 25 nations to register with the U.S. government. The protest marked the first anniversary of the registration policy.

Protesters from immigrant communities, religious and civil rights groups chanted outside the U.S. government building in Manhattan where many immigrants in New York must register. The policy, which began one year ago, requires immigrants to re-register every year with immigration authorities until they become citizens. Those who do not re-register face possible arrest or deportation.

The Justice Department created the program to help track foreign visitors after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. So far, over 82,000 immigrants, mainly from Arab and Muslim nations, have complied. Critics describe the program as a form of racial profiling. But they say it fails to deter terrorism because terrorists are not likely to offer personal information to the U.S. government.

Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, Margie McHugh, says instead the program is increasing a backlog at the Department of Homeland Security that now runs the U.S. immigration agency and is devastating the lives of tens of thousands of immigrants who are trying to obey the law. "It is an insult to our values as patriotic Americans who believe in our constitution and it is an insult to our intelligence to put it out there that we are somehow safer because of a program like this," she says. Ms. McHugh says deportation hearings were scheduled for at least 13,000 people who came forward to register, although none were charged with terrorism-related crimes.

Advocates are calling on the U.S. government to end the program. In the meantime, they say the government should send immigrants reminders that they must re-register. They also want the government to provide translators during the interrogation process.

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