Ralston Deffenbaugh, president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (www.lirs.org), greeted with dismay the reports that hundreds of men and youth from Middle Eastern and African nations were arrested after voluntarily reporting to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service for special registration.
In a Dec. 19 statement, Deffenbaugh said LIRS was "particularly disturbed because many of those taken into custody have been trying to do the right thing--follow the new registration law while waiting for their pending applications for immigration benefits to be processed." He said even green card applicants had been arrested and a 16-year-old boy was taken from his mother, a legal resident, and his stepfather, a U.S. citizen.
"Men with no criminal history are being detained in crowded cells and inhumane conditions," Deffenbaugh said. "LIRS condemns acts of terrorism. However special registration will not make us safer. The program does not weed out terrorists by relying on intelligence information but instead targets individuals on the basis of national origin."
Deffenbaugh urged INS and Justice Department officials to stop such arrests, calling the measures "ill-conceived" and a "Catch-22 situation." If the registration program continues, he said, "the INS should use prosecutorial discretion and not detain people who are on the road to lawful permanent residence."
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