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Pakistani-Americans Denounce INS Rule

December 28, 2002

RAHWAY, N.J. (AP) _ A group of Pakistani-Americans has denounced the requirement that young Pakistanis who are not permanent residents register with the Immigration and Naturalization Service by Feb. 21 or be deported.

``We are Americans who have chosen to live here,″ Shaukat Sindhu, president of the Chicago-based Pakistani American Association of North America, said at a news conference Friday. ``Suddenly, we are foreigners in this country. We have done nothing wrong, and now we have to register with the government.

``If this would make our nation, America, more safe, it would be OK,″ he said. ``But it doesn’t look like it. It sounds like the Pakistani community is being targeted unfairly.″

By the end of February, young men who recently arrived in the U.S. from at least 20 nations will be required to submit to fingerprints, photographs and interviews as part of the government’s efforts to better keep track of who is in the country. The nations include Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Sohail Mohammed, an immigration attorney, noted that Armenia was originally included on the list, but was removed just days later after an uproar from the Armenian-American community.

``This shows that it’s not about security; it’s about politics,″ he said. ``If Armenia was such a threat on Friday, how come they’re no longer a threat on Monday? Their political power paid off.″

INS officials referred inquiries to the Justice Department, which did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment Friday.

Many Pakistanis are baffled at being included in a list of suspect nations, given the risks Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf took in aligning with the United States in the hunt for Taliban and al Qaida operatives believed to be hiding in Pakistan.

``Pakistan has become willing to give whatever it takes to help the U.S. against terror,″ said Khalid Luqman Chaudhry, president of the East Brunswick-based Pakistan Center. ``We gave our bases, we gave our airspace and ultimately Pakistan became a target of terror itself.″

``President Bush has called President Musharraf his close friend,″ said Mian Zahid Ghani, director of News Network International, a Pakistani news service. ``Yet it was Pakistani businesses and homes that were raided by the (U.S.) security forces. No Pakistanis had anything to do with 9-11.″

Ghani estimated that 40,000 to 50,000 Pakistanis could be deported under the program.

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