special registration

The INS has new rules that seek to register, fingerprint and interview young men from a variety of Muslim-majority countries (including Pakistan). Suman has perhaps the most important pair of posts in the blogsphere about the issue of special registration:

If the INS/FBI is so worried about young Pakistani men in terrorist sleeper cells scattered all over the American West, why are naturalized citizens and permanent residents exempt from this ruling..? Why? Because they can vote, they are better organized, they are less vulnerable than non-residents to the extra-legal shenanigans of a bumbling bureaucracy. They know how to kick some serious legal ass if an over-eager FBI prosecutor tries to profile their entire community over flimsy pretexts.. This program is almost entirely political in nature. They know that people on non-immigrant visas will stay down when kicked, and are not going to be missed. I remember how worried I would get simply listening to right-wing talk radio rant about immigrants from non-white countries. This was during the heyday of the Rush Limbaughs, of course.! If I were confronted then with the additional requirement of registering with the INS/FBI and subjecting myself to an enormous indignity (heightened by the normal fears of someone with fewer rights and recourse to legal help than a citizen) and the consequent loss of privacy, I might never have grown to love this country the way I do today.

Suman's last point is perhaps the most important - ultimately, American patriotism must be grounded in the freedoms upon which the republic was founded. Without that soil, there won't be fruit.

Zack also emphasises this point in the course of his own observations:

Another very important way in which racial profiling creates problems for the police is by fraying the relationship between law enforncement and the minority in question. And that is something most conservatives, especially those belonging to the white majority, don't understand at all. Randall Kennedy in an article in the New Republic argued for banning racial profiling due to the same reasons.

It's an axiom of American liberty that given the authority, the government will abuse it. Hence the strong distrust and libertarian impulses written directly into the Constitution. What then should potential citizens make of the fact that the government has made mass arrests of people who are waiting in line to voluntarily comply with the INS regulations?

According to media reports covering growing protests against the detentions, up to 700 Middle Eastern and Muslim men and boys were arrested in Southern California by federal immigration authorities after they voluntarily complied with a new program that mandates the fingerprinting and registration of all male visitors 16 years and older from certain Middle Eastern countries. It remains unclear how many others have been detained across the country, but reportedly a full one-quarter of all those who complied with the program were arrested in Los Angeles.
In most cases, it is apparent that the INS arrested men who were simply waiting for approval of their green card applications, or those with minor visa problems caused by incompetence in the agency itself, which has been plagued by an inept bureaucracy for years.

Fraying the relationship, indeed. It is because of this that several watch groups here in Houston actually waited outside the INS building to do headcounts, to make sure that every person entering for voluntary compliance actually left.

Ikraam points out this bit of related grim humor in the Globe and Mail article:

Every hour, a volunteer from a local Arab-American organization gathered men waiting to register from down the line and moved them to the front, where they were funnelled into a special line for processing. Many others who had spent half a day in the freezing wind complained loudly. "Hey, I missed work today!" yelled one Mexican man who had come to the INS on a visa matter. "Why do they get special treatment?"

Glenn chimes in, asking that of these two men, which would you think was the would-be terrorist, and which would you think was the guy who called 9-11 on him? Answer here. Note that it's the Bosnian muslim who was the terrorist (must be all that gratitude), and the Pakistani who saved the synagouge. Yet which falls under more suspicion according to the INS?

Overall, this is another disturbing example of the emphasis placed on the illusion of results rather than actual progress, by this Administration.

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