The U.S. government dramatically increased the deportation of people from Muslim nations in the year after Sept. 11, 2001, even as it eased up on illegal immigrants from Mexico and other countries.
The numbers of foreign nationals expelled to their native countries in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia multiplied faster than for citizens of nearly all other nations from October 2001 to September 2002, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution computer analysis of Immigration and Naturalization Service records. The analysis provides the first comprehensive look at the nationality of people deported since the terrorist attacks.
The deportees include an Arab student in New York who was expelled for working seven hours a week beyond what his visa allowed and a Jordanian in New Jersey who violated terms of a tourist visa by working at a Dunkin' Donuts.
The shift in focus by the INS strikes many as a logical response to the threat posed by Islamic extremists, but critics say it has done little to secure America from the threat of terrorism.
"There's no evidence ... that the selective enforcement has been an effective response or has helped in any way to combat terrorism," said Doris Meissner, who was INS commissioner from 1993 to 2000.
The INS detained at least several hundred immigrants — the exact number is in dispute — from Muslim nations in its terrorism investigation, mostly for immigration violations. None was charged with a crime related to terrorism.
By contrast, authorities have detained at least 13 U.S. citizens on terrorism allegations — two in Afghanistan and 11 in this country — as well as a French citizen said to be the 20th hijacker and a British national who pleaded guilty to trying to blow up an airplane flying from Paris to Miami.
The largest percentage increases in deportations last year were for citizens of Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Algeria and Saudi Arabia. The INS deported 1,627 people to those countries last year, up from 655 the year before. Only two of 11 countries with the largest increases — Guyana and Samoa — are non- Muslim.
Overall expulsions declined 18 percent, and deportations to Mexico fell 24 percent, from 141,277 to 106,837. Mexicans make up this nation's largest immigrant group.
Jorge Martinez, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, which oversees the INS, said authorities enforce immigration laws regardless of a person's nationality. He said authorities "will take appropriate action" when they encounter "a person who is found to be in violation of U.S. law." He said many of the deportees were among hundreds detained for immigration violations in the terrorism investigation, but the analysis shows many others were deported who were not swept up in the probe.www.accessatlanta.com/ajc/news/0103/15deport.htmlE-mail this article