USF to inform students on new INS regulations

A recent update made by the Immigration and Naturalization Services has increased its list of countries designated to a “special registration system” to 25.

On Jan. 27, the INS added a fourth group of countries to its National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, which requires non-immigrant visa holders from certain countries to comply with “special registration.”

In response, USF will hold a registration information session Thursday.

David Austell, director for the International Student and Scholar Services, said about 125 students are being affected by the INS registration system.

The countries added to the fourth group for special registration include Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan and Kuwait.

Austell said two immigration attorneys will be speaking at the meeting to assist students with directions and information about registering, in order to avoid deportation.

Last month USF graduate student Abdullah Hatahet was almost deported for missing a Dec. 16 deadline that required citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan or Syria to register with the INS.

“Any opportunity to get information out about this special program is a good opportunity,” Austell said. “We’re trying to make sure we serve different avenues of information on campus for students who might be affected by general sessions of this sort.”

The law requires male citizens or nationals from the designated countries, who are 16 years or older to register at a local INS office if they were admitted to the United States on or before Sept. 30.

Registration requires verifying residency in the United States, answering questions on national security, being fingerprinted, photographed and paying an $85 filing fee.

One of the attorneys Austell arranged to speak at the information session, John Ovink ,will be assisting Saudi Arabians with INS special registration.

The U.S. Department of Justice extended the registration period for citizens and nationals of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to March 21 from its original Feb. 19 date. Registration requires those who were admitted to the United States before Oct. 1.

The list mainly affects countries with large numbers of Muslims and Arabs.

Austell said the INS registration system is not intended to profile any ethnicity.

“It’s not designed to be anything other than an identification program related to Homeland Security. Many people involved are Muslim people and this leads to the perception that this program is identifying people on the basis of their faith,” Austell said. “It is gender oriented, however.”

Mayra Calo, an immigration attorney, said she will speak Thursday about the special registration program. Calo said the program has been improperly implemented.

“Anyone who’s subject to (the registration program) should be interested in civil rights,” Calo said. “On the list, there are exceptions as to who needs to register and who doesn’t. It’s a threat because if they don’t know about it, it can have negative consequences on them in the future and could prevent them from entering the United States in the future if they don’t register.”

The registration session will be held at 6 p.m. in the Grace Allen Room in the Library.