Are Palestinians Affected by INS Special Registration?

Washington, DC, Feb. 21–On January 30, 2003, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and the Arab American Institute (AAI) wrote to Attorney General Ashcroft seeking clarification about Palestinian visitors to the US and the INS Special Registration Call-in Program. ADC and AAI specifically inquired as to whether Palestinians using travel documents from countries listed in groups 1-4 (yet not recognized by those countries as citizens or nationals) are required to register with the INS. To date, we have no response to our inquiry.
Many Palestinians who travel to the United States use travel documents issued by Arab governments to facilitate their mobility. The Arab countries that issue these travel documents do not recognize the Palestinians either as their nationals or citizens of that country. However, there have been a number of cases in which Palestinian visitors have come to INS offices to comply with Special Registration based on the country of origin of their travel documents. Some have been detained, some have been placed in deportation hearings, and others have been sent away.
Based on our reading of the Special Registration requirements available in INS publications and our consultations with immigration attorneys, we conclude that Palestinian visitors to this country are not required to register unless they are citizens or nationals of one of the group 1-4 countries (e.g. Palestinians granted Jordanian citizenship).
ADC President Ziad Asali, MD, and AAI Managing Director Jean AbiNader agreed that, “Among the numerous unanswered questions in the INS’ Special Registration program is the problem of registering Palestinians in the U.S. who are not recognized as nationals or citizens of any country but hold travel documents known as ‘laissez passer’. Although we object to the discriminatory nature of the INS’ Special Registration program, we believe it is critical to clarify this issue to provide guidance for thousands of Palestinian immigrants and visitors. We have contacted the Justice Department on this issue and have informed them of our position. We are confident that Palestinians who are not recognized as citizens or nationals by the countries called up for Special Registration are not required to register.”
Click here to read text of joint ADC-AAI letter to Attorney General Ashcroft.

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