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 Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 17:15 GMT
US immigration: Is South Asia getting a raw deal?
Strict regulations brought in by US immigration have affected Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Anger over demands that Pakistani nationals register with the US authorities under new anti-terror measures has prompted Pakistan's foreign minister, Khursheed Mahmood Kasuri, to bring forward his trip to the United States.

Bangladeshis also face the new, controversial US rules, which are targeting adult men from more than 20 mainly Muslim countries.

US human rights activists have protested at the detention of a large number of people in the first wave of men to report to the Immigration and Naturalisation Service.

But the Justice Department insists that "this has absolutely nothing to do with a person's race, religion or ethnicity".

So are Pakistanis and Bangladeshis being victimised? Or is this process justified if the US is to protect itself against the threat of terrorism? Tell us what you think.

A World Today debate on this subject will be broadcast on BBC World Service Radio on Thursday 23 January at 0045GMT and 0245GMT. A selection of your e-mails will be read out during the debate and daily on the programme leading up to the debate at 0040 and 0240 GMT.

Have your say

The new INS registration laws are clearly targeted at Arab, Muslim and South Asians. Does the Bush administration truly believe that this type of law will reduce terrorism? It will only increase the already high resentment of the US throughout the world and will therefore breed more terrorists. People do not join terrorist groups because they like to kill people. They join them because they are desperate and feel that the policies of their government or those trying to control them [e.g. the US] are enforcing unjust laws. These laws are unjust and target a specific group of people, while sending the message that all brown people are terrorists and out to hurt Americans. The United States Constitution states that it is the right and responsibility of the American people to do something about it. These new laws will only bring about more violence and retaliation, not stop it.

The tragedy of 9/11 has given the USA a pretty good understanding of where the threat to US can come from. So, the US government is trying to keep tabs on the origination of the threat so that it can contain that. It is self-protection. Nobody can deny that. Now, in the process a few get upset, well sorry. If you are in Arab countries as a foreigner, you have to obey their rules and regulations. When compared to that standing in line and reporting your whereabouts, it is pretty decent I guess.
Ram, USA

It is causing much tension and pain to many innocent families

Tasneema, USA
The practice of registration only for the people for certain selected nations is against the basic principles of justice and freedom of this great nation of ours. The FBI should do its job and question only those individuals who are actual threat to the security of the country. It is causing much tension and pain to many innocent families, specially young children.
Tasneema, USA

Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches. I think the strict immigration rules are very much justified, and no nation should feel targeted, because a terrorist action causes harm to everyone be it a Muslim, Christian, Jew or a Hindu. I think we should appreciate the steps taken by the US govt and hope that they are helpful in enforcing a proper rule.
Jyoti M. Pathania, India

Definition of "all American": An upstanding, law-abiding, moral, actively involved, community member who demonstrates respect for and is proud of living in the USA." I am such a person. My father worked hard to bring our family to this country from the West Indies. He never broke the law, signed countless papers, lived by strict immigration rules, and had dozens of interviews with government officials. He endured all that with pride knowing that he was setting a good example for his family and other "legal" immigrants. That was over 30 years ago. The rules are just tighter now--with good reason. Anyone who can't understand how much 9/11 broke the hearts and trust of decent Americans, can leave or, better yet, not come here at all. As American "citizens" we work hard for our money and obey the laws. So, what's the problem with "visitors" doing the same?
Jameela Ali, USA

I am an Indian-American and have noticed this hue and cry from mainly Muslim nations on the new INS registration requirements. First, for the countries affected (Pakistan being the loudest), the number of their immigrants to the native population is such a small miniscule number that one wonders (100,000 Pakistani immigrants vs 143 million back home): why doth they complain so much? The problem lies in their inability to contain terrorism, as reader Shiv Gupta so eloquently points out.
Rudy-S, USA

Why is that most people favouring the registration here are the ones with Indian names? I will be happy to see the registration process extended to India and Indians treated the same way as Muslims.
Tariq Rehman, Pakistan

When you single out countries like this, it is form of discrimination. I feel that registration system is really a good idea, but it should be applied to all countries. If people are here legally there is nothing to be afraid of. I don't believe any Bangladeshi were involved in any terrorist attacks, in fact they're victims of it. I wonder what criteria were on singling out these countries.
Ruhul, USA

The only way to filter terrorism out is through government information sharing

Ajay Patel, India/USA
Did anyone notice that a number of the September 11th hijackers carried EU passports? How would the current registration process weed them out now? It is targeting nationals of certain countries. A passport does not mean allegiance. The only way to filter terrorism out is through government information sharing not alienation (which is what the current registration process does).
Ajay Patel, India/USA

While the anger, fear and frustration among people from countries required to be registered under the new US regulation is understandable, we must not forget that it is the duty of the Government of the day to defend its people from the enemy from within or outside.
Awadhesh Prasad, Australia

I'm a US citizen, born in Pakistan. I'm so proud to be an American citizen, but the way the Bush administration is leading the country is not the American way. Everyone should be treated equally regardless of their colour, race and religion.
Arain, USA

I do not understand why an open society and a country based on laws like the US should be heckled by visitors from countries where even fundamental human rights may not be guaranteed. The citizens of the US make the law, and everyone, regardless of how high or mighty, must obey the law.
Srinivas Bangarbale, USA

The latest procedures regarding registration are long overdue and very necessary. As to whether they are adequate remains to be seen. There can also be no doubt regarding the validity of the requirement to register and closely scrutinize citizens of those countries whose domestic populations have a predominantly anti-American stance. Kudos to the US administration for doing what is necessary and in the public interest.
Snuuy, USA

I am an international student studying in the US. I truly feel that the US is right in what they are doing. I am here to study, and I have nothing to hide. If they want to know what I do when I'm in their country so be it. I came here willingly and if I don't like something I can leave. When someone comes in as a student and does something else all students get a bad rap. If this helps to stop people like that, including terrorists, it'll be better for all.
Chamila Indika, Sri Lanka

If other countries in the world had taken similar actions, terrorism may have been contained.

Gaurav Tripathi, India / USA
I would like to say that if other countries in the world had taken similar actions, terrorism may have been contained. It is because of such delays that now drastic measures have to be taken. Obviously personal freedom will be compromised, and scrutiny will be increased. Terrorists use personal freedoms granted by free democracies to avoid scrutiny.
Gaurav Tripathi, India / USA

Some participants in this discussion feel the law is ridiculous and some feel it is ineffective. Whether it is ridiculous or ineffective, any person who is not a citizen should comply with the laws of the host country. No person other than a US citizen has a right to complain about any US law. If a person in US does not like a law, he or she is free to return to their country of origin. Nobody is forcing them to stay in the US.
Suresh, India/USA

I will admit this does feel like racism. However, most of the countries on the list fall into one of three categories, sponsors to terrorism, unwilling to contain terrorist activities, or unable to end the terrorist machinery. If citizens of these countries are being put through hardships, it is unfair. But the problem is not the US, it is their own country. Assume a country is unwilling/unable to control a contagious disease, every other country will want to screen immigrants from that country for the virus. As effects go, how is terrorism all that different?
Shiv Gupta, USA

Ordinary Pakistanis will suffer from the legislation

Jude Heaton, Pakistan
I can understand the US administration's desire to control the flow of people into the country, but who will this law really affect? Powerful terrorist will usually have the means to by-pass these regulations, whilst ordinary Pakistanis will suffer from the legislation. Is this law going to stop acts of terrorism sufficiently to be worth the alienation of the Pakistani population that it will cause?
Jude Heaton, Pakistan

When I go to India, as an American, I must hand over my passport and fill out registration forms at every new hotel, ostensibly so the local authorities are aware of my presence. In many countries, I must apply for a visa or register upon arrival while other nationalities don't have to. There are islands where I cannot go, even if I immigrate, because I am not a citizen. Why do such measures pass unremarked, yet this registration act - which will only have negative effects for those in violation of the law - cause such uproar?? I am truly bewildered.
Simran, USA

These Strict regulations brought in by US immigration (G W Bush) are absolutely ridiculous and are clearly targeted at Muslims. Unfortunately, Bush has started a new era of racism in America, but this time the target is not black Americans, but Muslims and Arabs.
Richard S P, Australia

Richard SP of Autralia: before making such venomous acusations against my country, please get your terminology straight. Arabs and Muslims are not a "race", Arabs are a culture and Islam is a religion. This has nothing to do with race or with our historical racial problems. This has to do with terrorists that want to come here to murder as many of us as they can. Are you suggesting we should make it easier for them do so? If non-citizens from other countries are dissatisfied with our laws, they can choose to not stay. It would also be wise for you to look at your own country's immigration policy before calling ours racist.
Jim, USA

Why is anyone surprised to discover the new INS laws? America the brave never really existed. Where else can one find rampant discrimination, laws that allow the rich to buy themselves out trouble? Where obtaining the Presidency is only a matter of how much money one can ply out of corporate business and cronies. This is America.
Tony, Lebanon

I am a naturalized US citizen of Indian origin. I had to answer personal questions, obtain police clearance, get profiled, and fingerprinted when I got my Green Card and Citizenship. Yet I never felt intimidated, paranoid, violated or any such negative feelings. Because I understand that the US government has to do what it requires to maintain the security and interests of its nation and its people and I had nothing to fear because I never broke any law.
Kedar Bhandary, Santa Clara, CA, USA

It is America's right to keep track of any and all visitors

Hamza Sheikh, USA
Every country has the right to make whatever laws it deems necessary, and then apply them. There should be no talk of fair or unfair. It is America's right to keep track of any and all visitors. If they exercise their right, we have to respect it. Or we can always leave their country.
Hamza Sheikh, USA

I feel the Bush administration is making a huge mistake with this registration. This will not be effective to find terrorists but will only destroy the true essence of America - freedom and justice.
Shahab Raja, USA

I believe the Americans should do everything sensible to protect themselves from terrorists. However, I am worried of over-reacting in a manner that will affect the American economy which will in turn affect the world's economy. There are already signs of strain in the American economy.
Robert A. Khin, Burma/Malaysia

I've been through some draconian immigration procedures that make the new ones in the US look downright fun

Anduril, USA/Japan
Let's not forget that nearly 12% of the American population was born in a foreign land and that America welcomes these guests and newcomers wholeheartedly. But now that the US has been attacked by 19 of these guests and untold tens of thousands are unaccounted for, how can you blame us Yanks for wanting to tighten up the controls of determining who can and cannot enter? Although these measures may seem unfair we must remember that, yes, so is life. In my short life I've been all over this chunk of dirt we call Earth and I've been through some draconian immigration procedures that make the new ones in the US look downright fun.
Anduril, USA/Japan

This registration process will not only cause personal heartache (as a US citizen, I am dreadfully fearful of losing a loved one of many years for a possible minor violation), but also provoke further resentment toward our country at a time that we should solicit the support of Muslims loyal to the US. Please, if the INS must register foreign citizens as a security precaution, it should offer at the very least an amnesty for those individuals with visa violations, but a clean criminal history and no link to terrorist activities. We have done this for illegal Mexican immigrants in the past, so now let's do this for individuals who could possibly provide valuable information to the authorities.
Jennifer Tikka, USA

Bush claims the war is not on Muslims but on terrorists. However, his policies speak louder than words. People are being targeted in the USA purely because of their religion and nationality.
Altaf Ismail, UK

Who can blame the USA for being paranoid?

Jvalant Sampat, Princeton, NJ, USA
I am an Indian resident in the USA and if it is necessary for me to register in the country as a security measure, I would not mind. I wonder what the hue and cry is all about? If the nationals of Pakistan and Bangladesh don't want to register, they can always go back. In the current scenario, who can blame the USA for being paranoid?
Jvalant Sampat, Princeton, NJ, USA

Does the US government realise that a terrorist will not willingly and knowingly put his name on the list. It cannot be enforced. It also smells of racism and paranoia. We in the UK have had to deal with Irish terrorist groups for decades, but did the UK bring in the same kind of laws ??? NO.....I'm sorry but the more I see the US of A's action the more it seems like a war on Islam, no matter how much George W Bush and Tony Blair say otherwise...
Abul Ali, London, England

As a Pakistani living in the US, I find this policy repugnant. If these immigration regulations were applied across the board, to every country, then there is no problem. Every country has a right to defend itself. However, as Ashcroft focuses on South Asia, what'll he do about another large immigrant population, Mexicans, many of whom are also illegal?
Saima Zaman, USA

ll rules should be applied uniformly

Rajesh Guha, USA
Not Only Pakistan and Bangladesh, but all so-called Muslim countries are being victimised. What if a terrorist originates from France, Sweden, India or Singapore? What if a Non-Muslim acts as a terrorist? All rules should be applied uniformly. Otherwise it is unjust and unfair and also ineffective.
Rajesh Guha, USA

Chris, today we are living in a globalised world. So the argument that a country has every right to decide how they treat foreign nationals of certain countries does not hold.
Ram, India

As a US citizen, all I feel needs to be said on the topic is this. As a foreign national in my country, the citizen of any other country has a choice to comply with the relevant laws regulating their presence in the US, or return to their native land. It's really that simple. So why the controversy?
Chris Bunce, USA

In the wake of 9-11, Americans asserted that we would "not let the terrorists win". The intent being that our way of life would not change. Yet, in the name of fighting terrorism, the Bush administration has dispensed with basic justice and the fundamental rights we hold so dear. They have decided to descend to the level of the terrorists rather than take the moral high road.
Edwin S. Purcell, USA

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See also:

16 Jan 03 | South Asia
15 Jan 03 | South Asia
10 Jan 03 | Americas
10 Jan 03 | Americas
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