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March 28, 2006 – In the shadow of September 11, it’s no surprise that some people wonder whether the immigration authorities are more interested in visitors from Arab or Muslim states than elsewhere.
Faris Alami’s co-counsel, Russell Abrutyn, agrees it’s difficult to know whether the government would have processed Alami’s request to stay in the United States more readily if he weren’t Arab.
“It may be,” Abrutyn says. “It’s hard to tell these days.”
But at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington, spokesman Laila Al-Qatami calls this is a pattern they’ve seen over and over.
“People are being rounded up and deported for the most minor, technical reasons,” she says. “Immigration has been very clear they want to find anyone who’s in violation of visa status” — like Alami, who overstayed a student visa in the mid-1990s.
Federal officials, however, deny that Arabs are being singled out for deportation.
Greg Palmore, a spokesman for Detroit field office at Immigration and Citizenship Enforcement, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, notes that individuals from the Middle East constituted less than one percent of the deportations coordinated by his office last year.
Most forcible removals, he says, involved Mexicans.
Michael H. Hodges