Hundreds of protesters lined the streets outside the Immigration and
Naturalization Service office in San Francisco on Friday, denouncing the
agency's mandatory registration of mostly Arab and Muslim men from 13
Friday was the registration deadline for men 16 and older who hold
temporary visas from countries the U.S. government views as high-risk for
terrorist activity. Protesters called the action racist and said they fear it
will lead to a mass detainment akin to the internment of Japanese Americans
during World War II.
Rosa Cabrera (left) and Kristy Lively (second from left) were among hundreds of protesters who gathered outside the Immigration and Naturalization office downtown on Friday as men from Middle Eastern and other countries lined up to register. Associated Press photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez
"At any time when our brothers and sisters are denied civil liberties,
civil rights or human rights, we must always have a cadre of people who will
stand up and say, 'No, no, no,"' said the Rev. Cecil Williams of Glide
Memorial Church in San Francisco.
Williams stood on a flatbed truck addressing the crowd that lined the
intersection of Sansome and Washington streets.
Between 100 and 150 men have registered in the city this week, with several
detained, said members of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, who
interviewed men as they entered and left the building.
Nationwide, 7,200 men were expected to register, and Department of Justice
officials have said about 400 men have been detained in California since the
National Security Entry-Exit Registration System began in November.
All but about 20 of them have since been released, justice officials said.
Friday's deadline was for men from Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, North
Korea, Bahrain, Eritrea, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, the United
Arab Emirates and Yemen.
The first phase of the registration tracked immigrants from Iraq, Iran,
Libya, Sudan and Syria. The next deadline is Feb. 21 for men from Saudi Arabia
On Friday, men leaving the INS building said it took about four hours to be
interviewed, fingerprinted and photographed. They said INS interviewers asked
questions about where the men lived and worked, their country of origin and
One man, who only wanted to give his first name of Ali, was shaking as he
left the building after his interview. He pulled a cigarette from a pack and
leaned against the granite wall, taking deep drags.
"I've seen people going in and not coming out. Basically it's like luck
whether you have to stay," said Ali, a Marin resident who came on a student
visa three years ago but has since changed his status.
He had worried "big time" that his change in status could lead to
Meanwhile, protesters and speakers shouted ferocious condemnations of the
registration, with an intensity and unified message anti-war protests in the
city have lacked.
Hundreds of protesters rallied outside the INS office in San Francisco to protest a mandatory registration for men from 13 countries. Chronicle photo by Kurt Rogers
"When you lie to one of us, you lie to all of us. When you detain one of us, you detain all of us. When you terrorize some of us, you terrorize all of us,
" shouted Renee Saucedo of La Raza Centro Legal's INS Watch project,
electrifying the crowd.
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who also spoke, said he never
understood how his parents and grandparents of Japanese descent could be
detained during World War II while the rest of the country watched.
He said his own ambivalence toward articles and other information about
government actions after Sept. 11 showed him how internment went unchecked.
"Our greatest enemy is our own inaction," he said.
About 100 protesters also gathered outside the INS building in New York.
Speakers in San Francisco demanded, and received, a meeting with the acting
director of the INS here. Seven people representing various groups met for
about 45 minutes with Acting Director David Still.
Still told the group that men who missed the deadline because they were
unaware of its existence or those whose visa papers were still pending would
not be detained, said Marc Van Der Hout, who represented the National Lawyers
Guild at the meeting.
Not every man who registered saw the policy as intrusive.
Samim Ansary, who came from Afghanistan in June, said he felt safer after
talking to INS officials and did not mind the interview questions.
"They already had the information in my file from when I arrived here,"
said Ansary, who worked as a doctor in Afghanistan and is doing sales in
Concord. He brought an attorney to the meeting nonetheless.
Those attending the protest mostly held signs denouncing the registration,
while in previous city protests, any number of groups and messages were
Speakers still denounced the possible war in Iraq and other Bush
administration policies, which elicited cheers from the crowd.
"No one wants to be terrorized, but no one wants to be terrorized by their
government in the name of terrorism," said San Francisco Supervisor Tom
Ammiano, who spoke.
Alexis Downey, who attended the massive anti-war protest Oct. 6 in San
Francisco, said the spirit of the crowd felt different at Friday's event.
"I felt an undercurrent not of anger, but of united strength," said Downey,
a student at UC Berkeley.
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle