WASHINGTON – The Justice Department, in a reasoned but controversial move, has given immigration officers authority to fingerprint, photograph and monitor visiting Canadians born in high-risk Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, according to sensitive internal documents obtained by WorldNetDaily.
All Canadian citizens born in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan or Libya must now be registered as part of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS, new INS guidelines say.
In addition, Canadian men between the ages of 16 and 45 who were born in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Yemen must also be registered, according to the written instructions issued to immigration inspectors at U.S. land, sea and air ports, many of whom have long clamored for tighter controls on Canadians.
Such Canadians will be subject to special registration even if they left those countries as small children and don’t hold passports from there, the written directions say.
Previously, all Canadian nationals visiting the U.S., including Arab-Canadians, were treated as “non-controlled” aliens. Because the U.S. and Canada are close allies sharing a long border, Canadians did not have to fill out entry-exit documentation required of all other visiting aliens, including even those from Britain.
But in the war on terrorism, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement have traced a disturbingly high number of al-Qaida operatives back to Canada, convincing the Bush administration that Canada’s more than 210,000 Middle Eastern immigrants pose a potential security risk – particularly given the looser restrictions applied to Canadians entering and staying in the U.S.
As a result, Attorney General John Ashcroft agreed to intensify screening of certain Arab-Canadian visitors – over the objections of State Department officials.
Canada acknowledges that it has al-Qaida cells.
“But everyone does,” argued Canadian Embassy spokesman Bernard Etzinger in a WorldNetDaily interview.
He said Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham has complained to Secretary of State Colin Powell about the move to single out certain Arab-Canadians for anti-terrorist screening, and is still waiting on a “formal response” from State.
Meantime, Graham has issued a travel advisory to Arab-Canadians to think twice about visiting the U.S.
INS inspectors received the authority to add certain Arab-Canadians to the watchlist from updates to the “Inspector’s Field Manual,” which went into effect Sept. 11, and subsequent inserts clarifying the registration of dual nationals. (Beginning Oct. 1, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen were added to the watchlist, according to a four-page memo first revealed by WorldNetDaily).
“A case that might warrant discretionary registration could be: A nonimmigrant alien who is a dual national and is applying for admission as a national of a country that is not subject to special registration, but the alien’s other nationality would subject him or her to special registration.”
That means that an INS inspector can photograph and fingerprint a Canadian citizen born in Baghdad, for example, or even Karachi or Riyadh.
INS port directors have made it clear in other written instructions that such Canadian nationals must be specially registered.
“In the case of a Canadian citizen, if the passport indicates he was born in one of the special-registration countries, then he would be processed under NSEERS,” an INS inspector at a major international airport told WorldNetDaily.
“It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t have a passport for one of the countries on the list, or if he left one of those countries as a small child and has never been back,” the inspector added. “He must be processed.”
The policy exempts those carrying diplomatic or government visas, however.
Also, INS supervisors must sign off on such discretionary registrations.
Embassy spokesman Etzinger says Canada understands the U.S. is trying to protect itself from Islamic terrorists, but he says the Canadian immigration regulation is unnecessary.
He points out that Canada already screens Middle Eastern immigrants when they first enter Canada. And he says they undergo a second security screening when they apply for Canadian citizenship.
Critics argue, however, that Canada’s immigration controls are even weaker than America’s.
Etzinger warns such regulations could get out of hand.
“We understand the goal is to prevent another 9-11. But what happens with Americans who are born in Pakistan?” he asked. “Will they be fingerprinted whenever they re-enter the U.S.?”
He added: “It illustrates how absurd these regulations can get.”