I'm next

Zack has been all over the special registration issue recently, but I think I just scooped him. The Karachi Dawn paper has this stunning nugget regarding special registration:

NEW YORK, Jan 20: Indian nationals (male 18-45 years) would be required to register under the new US government laws, beginning from May or June of this year, informed sources here told Dawn on Monday.

So far the United States has asked only nationals of 25 Muslim nations and North Korea to register with the US Immigration and Naturalization Services in an effort to curb terrorism. Nevertheless, countries like India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka are expected to be placed on the list of countries whose nationals would be required to register under such laws.

However, the US State Department spokesman Philip Reeker told news reporters last Thursday that the registration process was not Muslim countries specific.

"Eventually we will have structures in place for registering everyone from all countries of the world to register," he said.

One of the reasons why the US government had not included nationals of all countries immediately was to forestall the overwhelming rush at its immigrations offices. Hence the NSEERS programme is expected to proceed in batches.

The main argument that supporters of special registration put forth is that it amounts to a neccessary "profiling" - we are at war, etc. etc. Well, Suman and I apparently are next (Stop snickering, Zachary!). And after us, Andrew Sullivan and Chris Hitchens?

By way of Laura, I see The Statesman (one of India's oldest newspapers) posted a story contradicting Dawn's report. But Dawn fired back, quoting the INS Los Angeles District Director, Ronald Smith:

Smith said the Justice Department had decided to put all the countries into National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) by 2005. When asked whether the condition would be applicable to citizens of India and China, Smith said: "Yes."

In reply to a question why so far the names of only Muslim countries are coming up for registration, Smith said it was just a matter of priority according to national security concerns. However, that does not mean that Muslims or Pakistani community were being targeted and made victims of some sort of religious profiling.

The INS district director was upbeat on improving the registration procedure, saying, it was an evolving process.

He said already the registration process had gone through massive changes. The system had now become much milder, simplified and kinder to Pakistanis and Saudis and for upcoming countries, which fall in the second or third list of countries.

Note the inclusion of China now. And the denial that this is profiling (which really is bizarre, since a profiling argument is the only one that could justify this registration program!). AND note that the process will be "kinder" to Saudis?! (ahem, 14 out of 19, anyone?)

Curiously, the Webpage for the INS Los Angeles district lists "Thomas J. Schiltgen" as Director, not Ronald Smith. I doubt Dawn is lying - thoughit's possible they listed the wrong office. I'm still following this issue...

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