Special Registration: Federal Racial Profiling?
March 19, 2003 4:15 PM   Subscribe

Muslim men have been asked to undergo "Special Registration", a Department of Homeland Security program in its early stages. Men who hail from 25 targeted countries are required to be fingerprinted, photographed, give up credit card and bank account numbers, and are then given a registration number. So far, 46 people have been arrested, but none for terrorist-related activities. Is this an acceptable security precaution or the first sign of history repeating itself?
posted by ed (50 comments total)
Are the men citizens? Has the government intercepted coded communications between the men and groups that the united states is currently at war with? Have they been rounded up? Were the 46 arrested for cause or just to round them up?
posted by swerdloff at 4:18 PM on March 19, 2003

I think I'm going to be sick.
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:20 PM on March 19, 2003

Well it's definitely not the first sign of history repeating itself...
posted by zekinskia at 4:24 PM on March 19, 2003

We're about half an hour away from "War is Peace".

Looks like this is the next step to "Freedom is Slavery"
I guess they're just modifying it a bit for Arab men.

I'm looking forward to "Ignorance is Strength"
posted by themikeb at 4:29 PM on March 19, 2003

Oh, jesus. I can't believe this is being allowed to happen in this day and age. Didn't we leave that sort of shit behind us when we entered the new millenium?

posted by five fresh fish at 4:33 PM on March 19, 2003

posted by LouReedsSon at 4:34 PM on March 19, 2003

guys this sucks
posted by kjh at 4:35 PM on March 19, 2003

Quit your griping. After all, this is a war for the liberation of Iraq. The prez said so, so it must be true. Those guys that have been rounded up so far ought to be damned grateful.
posted by gordian knot at 4:38 PM on March 19, 2003

Swerdloff: Wasn't it just last week that we were hearing an FBI official complain about having to meet fucking QUOTAS rounding up terrorist suspects? Homeland Security is to Justice as Handy's Hentai Hideout is to fawn-eyed pre-teen romance. I'm sure you could ask the same questions about rounding up those Japanese in WWII and cook the answers however you want. After 9/11, muslim roundups were mostly hitting male immigrants with families, who wished to stay in accordance with the law. I don't remember the numbers, but something like 2,000 parents were seperated from their families based on skin color and religion in those fearful weeks after the attacks.

"War is Peace?" Doesn't Bush pray for peace every night?
posted by kaibutsu at 4:39 PM on March 19, 2003

"Immigration lawyer Robert Whitehill says Special Registration is transforming an already bureaucratic system into one "that is intimidating, is humiliating." But, he said, there are no clear legal grounds for challenging Special Registration.

"While for many purposes an alien in the U.S. is entitled to the rights of a citizen, fundamentally, requiring registration has withstood the test of time," he said. Iranian students had to go into INS offices to answer questions during the hostage crisis of 1979-81, for example."

posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:43 PM on March 19, 2003

A country has the right to keep track of foreign nationals that are in it's borders. It's as simple as that. Quite frankly, this is long overdue (as evidenced by the number of people they're finding that are illegally in the country because of things like expired visas), and really should be extended to all foreign nationals, not just the ones from these countries.
posted by piper28 at 4:44 PM on March 19, 2003


Arabs are being asked to undego a background check? Good. That should make everyone a little more comfortable, including Arab Americans.

If you were going to get on board a plane, and there was an Arab getting on the plane who wasn't checked would you at all feel that was foolish? Because my Arab American uncle does.

I'm a liberal and when I read knee-jerk responses by other liberals that fly in the face of common sense I feel that when the time comes when people's rights are really being violated no one will listen.
posted by xammerboy at 4:46 PM on March 19, 2003

piper28: If it was a matter of keeping track of everyone who comes in, why only males? Hasn't the DOJ heard of Mata Hari?

No, this is a sexist and racist use of power that has absolutely nothing to do with the War on Terrorism. Pure and simple. The fact that the DOJ has failed to explain precisely why they're doing this is prima facie.
posted by ed at 4:49 PM on March 19, 2003

A friend of mine was asked to do this back in December. He is a Lebanese citizen (although he grew up in France). He is here in the U.S. on a student visa.

While he wishes that things had not been brought to this, he thinks that America is doing the right thing. He feels that he has nothing to hide, and he is just happy to keep his student visa and enjoy the privilege of studying here.

What bothers him are the comments he gets to his distinctly arabic features. Some people have made anti-muslim comments (although my friend is a Catholic). But he has also received leading questions and comments from other arabic-looking people that are designed to find out if he is a muslim or not, and whether or not he has been harassed.

It's interesting to get the perspective of this from someone who has had to go through it.
posted by cleverevans at 4:49 PM on March 19, 2003

Why only men? If Homeland Security is going to institute such a draconian practice, make it equal opportunity.
posted by birgitte at 4:51 PM on March 19, 2003

Also notice that at airports they seem to be doing extra checks on all males between 20 and 40, not just "arabic-looking" ones. I get the extra treatment every time.
posted by clevershark at 4:54 PM on March 19, 2003

i'm sure this has been on metafilter before.
posted by quonsar at 4:55 PM on March 19, 2003

but maybe i read it in the paper or something.
posted by quonsar at 4:56 PM on March 19, 2003

I think, at times like this, it is important to remember that the United States of America accepts more immigrants every year than the rest of the world combined.

You may agree or disagree that we should be making an extra examination of immigrants from Muslim/Arab nations (btw my understanding is that the first phase of registration only included men because limited INS/FBI resources had to be focused on the sector of the population that presented the largest fear. Ed, never fear, when the resources free up this operation will no longer be "sexist" power grab, as you put it), but let us all remember America has continually accepted a level of immigration that surpasses any other nation's efforts, and this fact will not change.
posted by pjgulliver at 4:57 PM on March 19, 2003

Wehret den Anfängen!
posted by muckster at 5:00 PM on March 19, 2003

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller
posted by condour75 at 5:00 PM on March 19, 2003

A country has the right to keep track of foreign nationals that are in it's borders. It's as simple as that. Quite frankly, this is long overdue (as evidenced by the number of people they're finding that are illegally in the country because of things like expired visas), and really should be extended to all foreign nationals, not just the ones from these countries.

If this is really how you feel, then what about the estimated 7 million illegal immigrants in the US, over 70% of whom are Mexican. Nobody is calling for them to register. Registering Muslim men may be a great way to find visa violators, but this isn't about expired visas; it's about purportedly stopping terrorism. And it's a lazy way to do it.

Imagine if the War on Drugs required the same kind of intrusive rounding up of immigrant Mexican men in this country to try to find drug dealers. Nobody would tolerate it. And it wouldn't stop the flow of drugs, either, since drug dealers wouldn't register...
posted by laz-e-boy at 5:03 PM on March 19, 2003

"If you're a terrorist, either you'll be sure your papers are in order and they're not going to find anything, or if there's something suspicious about your background, you won't go in to register," said the ACLU's Walczak.


Memo to Tom Ridge: Ever heard of Leila Khaled?
posted by dash_slot- at 5:06 PM on March 19, 2003

If you were going to get on board a plane, and there was an Arab getting on the plane who wasn't checked would you at all feel that was foolish? Because my Arab American uncle does.

Excuse me, but how would YOU fucking know? While we're at it, why don't we register everybody? That way we can all feel that our government is being prudent. We will know with 100% certainty that everybody we climb aboard a plane with has been checked out. Goddam, I'd sure feel a fuck of alot safer if I knew that everyone I dealt with had their papers in order, and had to prove it at every black-shirt check-point.

(Jesus, how can anybody justify such nonsense with "feelings" of personal security? That's the most un-American bullshit that we're dealing with to date.)
posted by Wulfgar! at 5:13 PM on March 19, 2003

I think its a real shame that every thread has become an incoherent shouting match. I never considered myself to the right of most members (outside of my very specific views on Iraq) but most posts right now look like a transcript of a drunken happy hour of the alternet.org editorial board.

It's really too bad. These are serious issues that will effect the future of our nation. And most people show no desire to engage them with any substance, left and right.
posted by pjgulliver at 5:20 PM on March 19, 2003

I shouldn't be at all surprised by this in the days of "Orange-Plus" alerts. I was under the grossly mistaken impression that alerts had to be founded on something and required specific response from Federal and local officials. Today's events have clarified that the color coding is meaningless, based on whatever opinion the fed might have of the threat to "national security". Reaction may be military presence, security crackdowns, and all manner of psuedo-martial law, depending on what Tom Ridge and George Bush think the color of the day should be. Why have so few noticed this?

Registration leads to arbitrary, opinion driven threat assessment. Orange super secret plus 5 alerts, and we can throw all those of Arabic origin into detention, perhaps? But fuckin' A, us whitey Euro-American mutts will sure feel safe won't we?

On preview, pjgulliver, you are exactly correct. We should discuss calmly the absolute rape of what America was built on (inalienable rights and all that). We should not use foul language or get incensed that others might advocate the corruption of freedom in favor of the safety of the privileged. In all seriousness, it is because these are serious issues that we should get fired up, pissed off, and be willing to defend truth. Isn't that supposedly what we're about the bomb the crap out of Iraq for, you know, freedom and all that? If that offends your sense of what you wish to encounter in such weighty times, then I strongly advise that you not let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.
posted by Wulfgar! at 5:37 PM on March 19, 2003

How appalling. But Ben Franklin said it best:

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Get your heads out of the sand already people.
posted by LouReedsSon at 5:49 PM on March 19, 2003

Anyone-but-bush 2004.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:56 PM on March 19, 2003

If they are targeting Muslims only, this is religious discrimination.

If they are targeting men only, this is sexual discrimination.

If this government policy is something you disagree with, then get in touch with every one of your elected government. Do it NOW. Democracy only works when citizens stand up and speak.
posted by Captain Ligntning at 6:01 PM on March 19, 2003

First, I read, enjoy, reflect, and learn from alternet.org almost every day. However, I view it in the same light I view the Weekly Standard. It is an admittedly partisan (which is a good thing!) editorial/analysis site, which occasionally files harder news stories on underreported issues. I only used it as an example in an attempt for humor. I apologize if a my poor attempt a levity offended you.

Second, I don't object at all to discussing these issues, I am fascinated by them, terrified by them, and genuinely baffled. I am so confused by the speed of events in the world that I can barely sort out my opinions on the large issues of the day (Iraq, Patriot Act, the collapse of our health care system), let alone have fully-formed views on the seemingly legal if unusual registration of male immigrants of Middle Eastern origin.

And I come to Metafilter to learn about these things (as well as find the best lists of content on the web.) I really value the insight and opinions of all the members.

Which is why I find ultrapartisan threads, that seem to be comprised entirely of briefly stated opinions written in the most inflammatory language possible (which, admittedly is fun to do from time), deeply disappointing. This issue of immigrant registration is serious. I want learn about, not be turned off by shouting.
posted by pjgulliver at 6:04 PM on March 19, 2003

xammerboy: If you were going to get on board a plane, and there was an Arab getting on the plane who wasn't checked would you at all feel that was foolish? Because my Arab American uncle does. I'm a liberal

No, clearly you are not. Being a liberal means more than saying "I'm a liberal" then spouting decidedly non-liberal things. Don't say you are, and don't claim liberalhood so you can cloak your less-than-noble sentiments in some sort of "well you know, some of my best friends are Muslims!" piousness.

As a conservative right-winger, I know of what I speak. :)

pjgulliver: I think, at times like this, it is important to remember that the United States of America accepts more immigrants every year than the rest of the world combined.

I'm not saying that isn't true, but it sure sounds like a specious claim, such as "we're the most generous country on earth", that sort of thing. Sounds like a ditto line to me- I mean, the rest of the world combined? I have my serious doubts. Please source this.
posted by hincandenza at 6:11 PM on March 19, 2003

pjgulliver: To every argument in modern times, (and I would argue, ever) there are two elements: The inductive, championed by statistics and anecdotal evidence, and the deductive, championed by logic. I offer this, in a time when the inductive has unparalleled sway of national debate, it is precisely necessary to look at the deductive for a balanced view. Inductively, there are those who favor fascist methods of safety through war and governmental influence. Deductively, these methods stand against the tenets laid out in the founding documents of the US. Because either position is presented with vehemence, emotion and candor doesn't make it simply wrong. To think so lends unfair advantage to the inductive. My belief is that it is time for that to stop. This war makes no logical sense, and that we should corrupt the very basic foundations of law for our country in order to covertly justify this illogical war also makes no logical sense.

Screaming isn't bad in and of itself. Partisanship isn't bad, in and of itself. Calling the opposition "incoherent" because of the presentation rather than the message, just to shut them up, is bad, in and of itself. The Bushies have mastered that art, and our country faces its darkest hour because of it.
posted by Wulfgar! at 6:25 PM on March 19, 2003

If anyone knows anybody with the last name of Bush get them to run for president. If a few old ladies can mix up Buchannan and Gore we can surely wreak havoc across the bible belt with two Bushes on the ballot.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:25 PM on March 19, 2003

First they came for the _____
and I did not speak out...

You know, American friends, I really doubt that mere "speaking out" is going to do the trick any more.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:33 PM on March 19, 2003

You're right hincandenza. I blindly repeated a statistic I had been told once, and it turns out to wrong. The US accepts more legal immigrants every year than any other single nation (but even for this statistic to be true you have to discount mass refugee flows, like Rwanda to Zaire in 1995), but not more than the rest of the world combined.

Wow. I feel like a giant asshole after having posted two moralizing posts and now been caught with an arugment based on an untrue fact.
posted by pjgulliver at 6:33 PM on March 19, 2003

Okay, I will try not to yell "fire" in a small room.

I agonize about this kind of thing. Part of me is glad about it and it makes me feel safer. I think "damn, right." and I think "If the day every comes when 5 foot tall white, blonde women fly planes into buildings and kill thousands of innocent people" then I will be happy to stand in line and register, as I have nothing to fear. The fact is, the majority of terrorists ARE MUSLIM MEN in the US. Not mexicans, not blacks, not muslim women, not asians. That's why they are being targeted. So, good. I'm glad.

However, when taken in historical context..ie Jews in Germany and Austria and Poland, Japanese in the US, this is scary. Also, givin the lack of attention Ashcroft, the Justice Department, and the President have to the Constitution and Bill of Rights, it is frightening. This government appears to have little interest in maintaining our civil rights.

I don't know. Does this make us safer? Does this propel us down the slipperly slope of handing over our civil rights on a platter to Ashcroft and his ilk? I don't know. As I watch CNN and watch us bomb Baghdad (?), I don't know if this makes us safer or not.
posted by aacheson at 6:45 PM on March 19, 2003

posted by y6y6y6 at 6:51 PM on March 19, 2003

You know, American friends, I really doubt that mere "speaking out" is going to do the trick any more.

I know I've done this before, but:

Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it
posted by Cyrano at 7:01 PM on March 19, 2003

My thoughts exactly.
posted by pjgulliver at 7:06 PM on March 19, 2003

Sorry, that should have been "aachenson: my thoughts exactly"
posted by pjgulliver at 7:08 PM on March 19, 2003

Cyrano: if I might be a bit cynical, what you post is put together by wealthy Virginia landowners who also owned slaves, and later, when the Civil War broke out, the slave owners were exempt from service for the Confederacy because they had their slaves to take care of. And when the people did try to alter or abolish the govt, the North under Lincoln said, no way can you do that. We will go to war to ensure you do not leave the union.

As for Mexicans: they are not terrorists. They are merely people working for substandard wages hired by Americans who don't mind helping to violate the laws so they can get inexpensive help.

Bad as the rounding up for processing and checking, the lads nabbed were all in violation of some federal law even though not terrorists. Does that mean they ought to be let alone? If a cop stops me for auto infraction and finds an illegal gun, should I be let go cause that had nothing to do with a minor car infraction?
posted by Postroad at 7:12 PM on March 19, 2003

why aren't any of our elected officials screaming at the top's of their lungs that this has to stop? where is congress? don't they have to declare war or something?

guh. either i'm ill informed or bush's cock tastes like candy or something.
posted by fuq at 7:14 PM on March 19, 2003

Postroad: Sooo...the document that is one of the cores of the government I assume you're defending you think is a bunch of elitist crap? Am I reading that right?

I'm waaay more cynical than the next guy, but:

I don't much give a shit who wrote the declaration of independence or why. I don't care what their motives were. I happen to think there is something in what they wrote that transcends motive. And, honestly, I think they knew it when they wrote it regardless of whether they were looking at their tax returns or not. It's something that said, "this is how things should be, and if they're not that way it's up to you to fix it."

America should be about "this is what you should be" not "this is what you're going to be."

That being said and CNN on in the background, I hope as many people as possible of good heart and intention come home on all sides.
posted by Cyrano at 7:33 PM on March 19, 2003

It shouldn't be called a program when in reality it's a pogrom [Kristallnacht, November 9, 1838]. Recognize that word? Let me refresh your memory, WWII, Nazi Germany.

Damn right I'm chuffed. As the first generation born in NA, whose parents lived through Nazi occupied Poland throughout WWII, I've heard plenty of war stories at dinner time. My grandmother, who is presently 100+ years old, lived through two world wars. The Russians were [still are IMO] the worst, was her comment. That's why I'm so pissed off about this pogrom. Pogrom is an organized massacre, but what happens to those who get sent "back home"?

What is TFD [the fucking difference] when you single out out a race, religion or national identity for "special" [read "security"] identification and "registration"? Once was obviously not good enough when entering the US. What kind of due process was used when these same people [from Iraq, iran, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait – quite the fucking swath] immigrated into the US? The failure of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, now Bureau of Citizenship and Immigrant Services to do their jobs suddenly has lead to these present totalitarian "laws" [Homeland Security]. That's right, post Septrember 11, 2002.

Homeland Security MFF [my fucking foot]!

Those who do not follow these procedures "may be subject to arrest, detention, fines and/or removal from the United States," according to the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. from side bar of Pittsburgh post-gazette article

Following the Crystal Night [Kristallnacht] pogrom of 9 November 1938, it was Goering who fined the German Jewish community a billion marks and ordered the elimination of Jews from the German economy, the "Aryanization" of their property and businesses, and their exclusion from schools, resorts, parks, forests, etc. Hermann Goering

Do YOU see a fucking difference in the above two paragraphs? It smells like one and the same smell to me in my smell test.

"The purpose actually is to register people who are here legally to make sure they get into the system so we can make sure they leave, or if they don't leave, we know about it," said Otten.

"We have our agents out on the street, we get information from a variety of sources," said Otten. "If people [who have not registered] come to our attention, we'll visit them."

This "information from a variety of sources" is akin to relying on the testimony of prisoners as "witnesses" to "confessions". It is too dependant on those peoples' ulterior motives and unreliable.

"And that's the way it started in Germany," said Whitehill. "I'm Jewish. That resonates."

No fucking kidding Shakespeare!

Under the pretext of a threatened communist coup, Prussia was 'cleansed' and hundreds of officers and thousands of ordinary policemen were purged, being replaced from the great reservoir of SA and SS men who took over the policing of Berlin. Goering exploited the Reichstag fire--which many suspected that he had engineered--to implement a series of emergency decrees that destroyed the last remnants of civil rights in Germany, to imprison communists and Social Democrats and ban the left- wing press. Hermann Goering

Goebbels's hatred of the Jews, like his hatred of the privileged and clever, stemmed from a deep-rooted sense of inferiority and internalization of mob values; at the same time it was also opportunist and tactical, based on the need to create a common enemy, to feed popular resentment and to mobilize the masses. Joseph Goebbels

Goebbels was one of the chief secret abettors of the "Final Solution," personally supervising the deportation of Jews from Berlin in 1942 and proposing that Jews along with gypsies should be regarded as "unconditionally exterminable. Joseph Goebbels "

His opportunity came with the [Kristallnacht] Crystal Night pogrom of 9-10 November 1938, which he orchestrated after kindling the flame with a rabble-rousing speech to Party leaders assembled in the Munich Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall). Joseph Goebbels

I'm waiting for "Arbeit Macht Frei", Work Will Free You.

Pardon the profanities, I tried to censor them too.
posted by alicesshoe at 7:34 PM on March 19, 2003

When I went to the Netherlands (that bastion of liberalism) I had to register within two weeks of arrival. In fact any foreigner (man or woman) has to register if you're staying there on anything besides a tourist visa.
posted by PenDevil at 12:11 AM on March 20, 2003

There are scary parallels between what is happening in the USA right now and what happened in Hitler's Germany, but there are also substantial differences.

Germany didn't go from a democracy to a facist state overnight. There was a gradual process of more and more authoritarian measures introduced. Each time, the Nazis had the support of the population, or, at least, enough of the population. They were able to influence public opinion through propaganda. They were skilled at exploiting events for their own purposes. They were able to frame the debate, so the population didn't ask the question: "Should we do this?", but rather they asked, "How far down this track should we go?"

The first steps towards the Holocaust were to demonise the Jews (and Gypsies, Homosexuals and Communists.) Once you stop thinking of these people as people it is much easier to accept the next step towards oppression. This is where I see the Bush administration heading.

We're not anywhere near Kristallnacht yet, and there's no reason to suggest there would ever be a Kristallnacht. It's most probable that Bush has no intention of heading down that road. It's just that this is how things started in Germany, and it's up to the American people to ensure the parallels don't get more striking.
posted by salmacis at 2:15 AM on March 20, 2003

pjgulliver is right. This thread is hopeless.

First of all, did anyone actually read the article? The very headline is false. No one is rounding up Muslims. American Muslims aren't involved, nor Arab-Americans, nor American citizens of any sort. This is a registration check of foreign nationals from countries that supply terrorists who attack Americans, many of which (but not all) happen to be heavily Muslim.

Every country has a right to know who the foreign nationals are within its borders, where they are and what they are doing. And every country does this. No one is being injured. Resident aliens who violate the terms of their visas will be deported. What the heck is wrong with that?

Comparisons with Nazi Germany are just clueless.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 7:19 AM on March 20, 2003

What Slithy_Tove said.

Except that I think the women should be registered too.

We are talking registration of immigrants here, people. Not concentration camps, not people being murdered in specially designed trucks that prevented blood from dripping onto the street, not people being barred from going to school or having decent jobs in their own country.
Registration. A few hours sitting in an office and dealing with professional people. And providing fairly basic information.

The one thing that did sadden me in this article was the terror these men feel at the summons - where they come from such a summons could very well mean death or dismemberment even for the innocent. I'd like to see something done to reassure them. But the rest of you should know better.
posted by orange swan at 7:53 AM on March 20, 2003

And remember, our government isn't all powerful. It has limited resources to monitor foreigners in the US, so the first group it choose to register and monitor was that which provided the highest threat level, young males from a specific lists of countries. Those of you who believe registration is legitimate but wished it was pursued on a more equitable basis, it will be. There is nothing racist or sexist in ordering the legal registration of those who fit a profile. Its just facts people.
posted by pjgulliver at 9:45 AM on March 20, 2003

" If this government policy is something you disagree with, then get in touch with every one of your elected government. Do it NOW. Democracy only works when citizens stand up and speak.
posted by Captain Ligntning at 6:01 PM PST on March 19"

at the risk of sounding all doom-and-gloomy, this doesn't sound much like the current version of Demockracy we've got in this part of the world. Millions of citizens HAVE stood up, and spoke out against war - and government(s) simply dismissed it.
posted by frisky biscuits at 12:01 PM on March 20, 2003

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