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Iranian MIT Students Register with INS

By Jenny Zhang


Seven Iranian MIT students went to the John F. Kennedy Federal Building in Boston to undergo registration with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service yesterday morning.

Students reported varying degrees of questioning from the INS. Mehdi Yahyanejad G was asked for a United States contact, driver’s license, and social security number. “They were not very invasive with me,” he said. “I think that people were treated differently based on English proficiency.”

Hazhir Rahmandad G went to the INS last Wednesday. During the interview, he was asked personal information such as his cell phone number, contacts in the United States, relatives’ addresses, and social security number.

“They asked other things such as what airline and flight I used to enter the U.S,” he said. “If I couldn’t answer some things, they did not push. They were very polite.”

The interviewer also requested very private information such as his credit card number, and even looked at his wallet for numbers on other cards. “I’m uncomfortable with the fact that they have this information about me. I don’t know where it will be and how it will be used,” Rahmandad said. Mehdi Alighanbari G also said his wallet was searched.

Students have mixed feelings

Some students find the entire process wrong and are unhappy with the singling out of certain countries and invasiveness of some interviews. Others think that there is some use to it.

“This is unfair, and it won’t prevent anything,” said Peyman Khorsand, a graduate student at Northeastern University.

“I think it’s good to know who is entering and leaving the country. However, they are going too far when they ask for parent contacts and sometimes credit card numbers,” Yahyanejad said. “I don’t know how effective it will be because those who have something to hide may just not show up, and take the risks.”

Yahyanejad also questioned the list of countries from which people must register with the INS.

“The selection of countries whose citizens are required to go is very political, not necessarily based on national security,” Yahyanejad said.

New countries added to list

Originally, only males born on or before Nov. 15, 1986 who were citizens or nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Syria were required to appear at the INS by Dec. 16. On Nov. 22, the INS added Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen to the list. Those with citizenship from these countries must register by Jan. 10, 2003.

“My registration took 50 to 55 minutes. I think that with more people due to the recent addition, the process is a little faster because they want to get through everyone,” Rahmandad said.

“I waited over two hours, but actual registration took about 40 minutes,” Yahyanejad said. “The line moved pretty slowly, it seemed that they were being very inefficient.”

The actual registration process includes a photograph, fingerprints, and an interview under oath.

Yahyanejad said he thought that many people may not know that they are supposed to register. “We were notified by e-mail, and some people don’t have access to the Internet,” he said. “Some students have relatives that did not know this was going on.”

INS contact ongoing

Those who register with the INS must report back for an interview every year and inform the INS in person if they leave the U.S. Those who do not register by a given date may be subject to fines, arrest, or deportation.

According to the INS Web site, registration is being carried out because “in light of the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 and subsequent events ... the Attorney General has determined that certain nonimmigrant aliens require closer monitoring.”