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November 2002, Volume 9, Number 11

INS: Removals, Border, Visas

Outgoing INS Commissioner James Ziglar, in an October 2002 speech, said that the United States "needs to find a way" to satisfy growing labor needs. Ziglar earlier called for a temporary worker program, so that the INS could "focus on the bad guys coming across--not on the flow of people who just want to get into this country to work."

The INS has about 2,000 investigators, 5,000 inspectors, 10,000 Border Patrol agents and 3,000 adjudicators who inspect 550 million people every year. The Border Patrol made 1.2 million apprehensions in FY01; all but 30,000 were Mexicans.

Removals. The US 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia concluded in a 2-1 decision in October 2002 that the US government may legally hold secret deportation hearings for individuals targeted in the sweeping post-September 11 terrorism investigation because "national security" is more important than the public's 1st Amendment right of access to the courts. In August 2002, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati required the hearings to be open. The October decision thus makes it likely that the US Supreme Court will decide the issue.

One man arrested September 12, 2001, Egyptian Hady Hassan Omar, and held for 73 days without being charged, and is suing the US government. Many legal scholars have condemned the government's policy of "keeping people in jail until the F.B.I. clears them." Omar was married to an American, and due to get a green card soon, but the INS charged him with overstaying his tourist visa, detained him, and is continuing efforts to deport him even after he was released from detention.

The US government has not reported how many young Muslim men were detained after 9/11, but at least 1,147 were detained in November 2001. Of those, three were charged with terrorism-related crimes, and over 400 were deported. Some civil liberties advocates compare the detentions after September 11 to the internment of 110,000 Japanese and people of Japanese descent, 70,000 of whom were United States citizens, during World War II.

The INS's Institutional Removal Program, begun in 1998, aims to identify criminals in federal, state or local custody who are eligible for deportation, and process them so they may be immediately repatriated after serving their prison terms. There are at least 10,000 deportable criminal aliens in custody at any one time, and if the INS does not process them for deportation when they complete their sentences, it must pay for their incarceration until they are removed.

The INS in July 2002 began requiring legal immigrants to report changes of address within 10 days. Between July and September 2002, some 520,000 change of address forms were sent to the INS, which processed only 60,000 of them. Before September 11, 2001, the INS received fewer than 3,000 change of address forms a month.

Border. U.S. Attorney General John D. Ashcroft has embraced the new program that, since September 11, 2002, requires visitors from Libya, Syria, Sudan, Iraq and Iran to be photographed and fingerprinted. Ashcroft said the system will be expanded by 2005 to improve the government's tracking of "virtually all of the 35 million foreign visitors who come to the United States annually." He continued: "European nations, most of which have rigorous registration systems [can] determine if foreign visitors follow their stated plans, while guests in our country [can go undetected], even if they overstay the legal limit of their visas."

The INS expects to apprehend fewer than 900,000 foreigners in FY02, the lowest number since 891,000 apprehensions in FY89. Starting in 1993-94, the INS changed its enforcement strategy from apprehension to deterrence. It has followed a "gain, maintain, expand" border enforcement policy since then- gain control of the border between ports of entry, maintain deterrent capacity, and expand control along the border. The 2,000-mile Mexico-US border has 43 points of legal entry.

Some 50,000 Mexicans live in Tijuana and work in San Diego, and some used bikes to speed their way over the border after September 11, 2001, when the INS required all entrants to show ID cards, which slowed down cars. Some 55 million people a year enter the US at San Diego.

The Bush administration plans to reduce the hours of the around-the-clock INS freeway checkpoints in Temecula and San Clemente in Southern California in order to improve the flow of traffic. Under the plan, Border Patrol agents would set up roving checkpoints in remote areas when they are not manning the checkpoints. The INS and Border Patrol wanted to maintain the 24/7 checkpoints, but there were few arrests at the checkpoints and increasing complaints of traffic congestion.

Interior. In October 2002, 11 people, seven men and four women, were found dead in rail cars in Denison, Iowa, population 7,500. The train had originated in Matamoros, and had sat in Oklahoma several months before being sent to Iowa to load with grain. The coyotes got the migrants over the Rio Grande on rafts, and put some of them in hopper cars that were sealed tightly and sent to Houston, where other smugglers were waiting to open them; the car sent to Oklahoma was not opened, and the migrants died.

The 11 migrants included Mexicans from central Mexican farming villages that are losing residents to migration. A profile of one migrant who died, from the El Llano municipality in Aguascalientes state, about 260 miles northwest of Mexico City, noted that he earned $4 a day as a welder, but wanted to earn more to build a house in El Llano, and raised $1,500 to be smuggled to Florida, where about 600 other El Llano residents work.

The tragedy may encourage Mexico's Congress to approve a bill that raises the maximum prison term for human smuggling from 12 to 25 years.

The Latino population in the Midwest almost doubled in the 1990s to three million. Many Latino residents in the Midwest are immigrants who moved from seasonal farm jobs in California to year-round meatpacking jobs in Iowa. Once anchor settlements have been established, many immigrants head directly to the Midwest, where they often reverse population decline- 40 percent of Iowa's cities lost population in the 1990s.

Denison's population rose 11 percent in the 1990s -- propelled almost entirely by immigrants drawn by the three meat-processing plants. According to the Census, about 17 percent of Denison's residents are Hispanic, but almost half of the kindergarten pupils are Hispanic. There is often a gap between local employers and business leaders, who assert that the immigrants are needed to keep local businesses viable, and other residents, who resent the changes due to immigration. Older residents in Denison say the Latino influx began in 1981, when the biggest packinghouse cut wages for meatpacking; today, half of the meatpacking work force in the Denison area are immigrants, earning at least $9 an hour. A statewide 2001 poll by the Des Moines Register found 54 percent of respondents opposed to any increase in immigration.

The INS went after Brazilians who had been issued final removal orders in East Boston in September 2002, apprehending several, and sending others fleeing from their apartments. There are an estimated 200,000 Brazilians in Massachusetts, many of whom are unauthorized.

A sniper terrorized the Washington DC area during October 2002, and Richmond, Virginia police apprehended two unauthorized foreigners when they approached a pay phone the sniper may have used. The men were cleared of involvement in the sniper attacks, and then turned over to the INS- they are likely to be removed. Leaders of the 430,000 strong Latino community in the DC area criticized the police, arguing that, if unauthorized Latinos came forward with information, they may be turned over to the INS.

Cecilia Munoz, vice president of the National Council of La Raza, said that turning over unauthorized foreigners to the INS "sent a chill through the Latino community." INS Commissioner James Ziglar sought to counter unauthorized foreigner fears in a statement that said: "INS will not seek immigration status information provided to local authorities in this effort... [INS] will look favorably on granting .. special [protection] visa status to anyone who can be proven to have materially aided this investigation." Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan pledged a "don't ask, don't tell" policy: "you can talk to us, you can help us in the investigation and we're not going to ask about your immigration status."

Students. The INS system to track foreign students, the Student Exchange and Visitor Information System (SEVIS), is to be operational January 30, 2002. INS is requiring all US schools that issue I-20 forms that allow foreign students to obtain visas for US study to enter student information into the database. However, as of October 2002, the software was still in the testing stage, and many schools expressed fears that it would not be ready in three months.

Each school must electronically complete a new Form I-17 and pay a certification fee of $580 to have authority to issue I-20 forms.

In October 2002, the White House briefed Congress on a plan to scrutinize foreign students interested in subjects such as bacteriology and nuclear technology. If such students are from countries that sponsor terrorism, they must pass a State Department background check before getting a student visa.

The US House of Representatives approved legislation on October 15 that would give new student visa status to Mexicans and Canadians who commute across the border to attend American colleges. Current law does not grant student visas to part-time commuter students. The new non-immigrant visas would cover full-time and part-time students, and would include them in the INS's student tracking system.

Visas. Visas are issued by the Bureau of Consular Affairs in the State Department after applicants have cleared security investigations done by the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. The security checks are supposed to be completed within 30 days, but often are not. Some argue that no visas should be issued until checks to ensure that the applicant is not a terrorist are completed; others argue that, if the applicant's name is not on an easily checked list, the visa should be issued.

According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, "A lack of clear guidance has resulted in wide discrepancies among posts in the level of scrutiny of visa applications and in factors used to refuse visas to questionable applicants." The GAO noted that 13 of the 18 September 11 hijackers had not been interviewed to get their visas, and that 15 of the hijackers' visa applications were not completed properly.

According to the GAO, there is a dispute between the Departments of State and Justice. State believes an applicant must be granted a visa unless there is "specific evidence of activities or associations" linking the applicant to terrorists. Justice, on the other hand, says that US law "places the burden of proof on the applicant to establish his admissibility."

The delays in clearing security checks around the world have made many foreign students and scholars unable to enter the US in Fall 2002 as planned, and have led many would-be visitors to give up on coming to the US. As visa revenues fall, the State Department is planning to raise its fees to $100 from $60 for processing a nonimmigrant visa. The State Department issued 7.6 million visas of all types in FY01, including 4.6 percent for foreigners to work in the US and 4.2 percent for foreign students and scholars.

In July, two men with Capital Law Centers were charged with defrauding thousands of immigrants. One of the men was sentenced in October to eight years in prison; federal authorities will use $4 million of the defendant's money to repay some of the immigrants.

Capital Law Centers filed petitions requesting labor certification for 2,700 immigrants within 18 months, each of whom had paid $8,000 to Capital Law Center for a green card. The requests were for short-order cooks at franchise restaurants such as Shoney's and Applebee's, which had never requested certification for immigrant cooks. The Virginia Employment Commission and DOL routinely approved the requests- there is no check on the number of requests by any one employer--and the fraud was discovered only when DOL mistakenly sent an approved certification to one of the restaurants, not to Capital Law Centers.

September 11 Backlash. One man arrested September 12, 2001, Egyptian Hady Hassan Omar, and held for 73 days without being charged, and is suing the US government. Many legal scholars have condemned the government's policy of "keeping people in jail until the F.B.I. clears them." Omar was married to an American, and due to get a green card soon, but the INS charged him with overstaying his tourist visa, detained him, and is continuing efforts to deport him even after he was released from detention.

The US government has not reported how many young Muslim men were detained after 9/11, but at least 1,147 were by November 2001. Of those, three were charged with terrorism-related crimes, and over 400 were deported. Some civil liberties advocates compare the detentions after September 11 to the internment of 110,000 Japanese and people of Japanese descent, 70,000 of whom were United States citizens, during World War II.

Stephanie Simon, "Latinos Take Root in Midwest," Los Angeles Times, October 24, 2002. Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, "Immigrants Fearful to Come Forward, Latino Leaders Say," Los Angeles Times, October 24, 2002. Richard Boudreaux, "Mexican migrant who hoped to earn enough to finish his home died in rail car," Los Angeles Times, October 23, 2002. Dan Eggen, "Hijackers got visas with little scrutiny, GAO reports," Washington Post, October 22, 2002. Tom Jackman, "8 years for cheating immigrants," Washington Post, October 19, 2002. Jerry Seper, "INS head addresses U.S. labor needs," Washington Times, October 18, 2002. Mark Bixler, "Foreign Students may learn deadly skill on US campuses," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 16, 2002. Holly Yettick, "Poll finds little support for bending tuition rules," Rocky Mountain News, October 16, 2002. Tom Ford, "Doubts plague INS student database," Star Tribune (Minneapolis), October 16, 2002. Christopher Marquis, "Slowdown on US Visas Stalls business, Science and Personal Travel Plans," New York Times, October 13, 2002.