A few weeks ago, the Chicago Tribune ran an incredible series of stories on how hundreds of immigrant families living in the United States - almost all from Muslim nations - have been torn apart by the Bush administration's crackdown after 9/11.
Last week the administration announced it was finally ending the program that required tens of thousands of men and boys from Middle Eastern countries to register with the government while in the United States.
The forced registrations had snared many without proper documentation and others who were oblivious to their need to extend visas and other papers.
The result, the Tribune found, was that mass deportations of these men left families here without their sole breadwinners. Children who are, in fact, U.S. citizens are now half a world away from their fathers. And wives of these men, many of whom are here illegally as well, have been pushed into the underground economy, fending for themselves to feed their families. About one in three of the men sent back to their native country has children left behind.
The Chicago newspaper tracked 75 of these men to Pakistan to see what has happened to them.
One man, Suleman Faqih, had just opened a cell phone store in New York when he was rounded up, found not to have the necessary immigration papers, thrown in jail for 185 days and then sent back to Pakistan with dozens of others originally from that country.
"Now he's adrift and bewildered in the violent metropolis of Karachi, staying with relatives who are nervous about letting him leave the house alone," the Tribune reported. "The young man who played youth football and used to belt out the American national anthem for his family does his best to keep the advice of the older siblings he left behind in New York: Keep your mouth shut."
That's because his Queens accent, his clothes, his demeanor all say America, which is not a good thing in Karachi, home to some of the most militantly anti-U.S. Islamic organizations in Pakistan.
"I love the American way of life, but some don't," Faqih told the newspaper. "And if you try to defend America, that can create a problem."
Others, the Tribune found, are kidnapping targets because natives assume that because they have lived in the United States for many years, they have lots of money.
The pity of this immigration crackdown is that it has yet to yield one charge of terrorism.
Families have been torn apart, children have been left with virtually no support, and the men who were working in productive jobs and paying taxes like everyone else are suddenly placed in harm's way, helpless and virtually defenseless.
Thank goodness this program is ending.
Copyright 2003 The Capital Times