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U.S. deportation database planned

©Associated Press
December 6, 2001

WASHINGTON -- The names of more than 300,000 foreigners who disappeared after being ordered deported will be entered in a crime database so police can help track them down, the Immigration and Naturalization Service said Wednesday.

With their names in the National Crime Information Center database, the missing deportees might be identified by officers in traffic stops or other identity checks, INS commissioner James Ziglar told the House Government Reform subcommittee on criminal justice.

"We think this will send a message that when you come to the United States you are expected to stay here on the terms you are admitted on and that coming here and staying in illegal status is not appropriate," Ziglar said.

The INS has come under heavy criticism since the terrorist attacks for failing to track those who enter the country. The agency says it does not know the whereabouts of 314,000 foreigners who were ordered deported.

Joe Karpinski, Ziglar's congressional liaison, said the vast majority have committed administrative violations, such as overstaying a tourist visa, and are not criminals. He said some may already have returned on their own to their former countries.

Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, applauded the INS move.

"One of the dirty little secrets of our immigration policy over the last 10 years was, it was far too easy for people under deportation orders to just slip away," Pasco said.

The federal government has taken several steps since Sept. 11 to hunt for terrorism suspects or people linked to them.

In addition to questioning universities about foreign students, the attorney general's office is attempting to interview about 5,000 people, mostly Middle Eastern men, as part of its investigation.

Steve Camorata, a researcher at the Center for Immigration Studies, said the disappearance of so many people underscores the need for judges to require higher bail for those they order deported.

"If deportation is to have any meaning, we've got to make people leave who are deported, otherwise it is just shadow boxing," said Camorata, whose group supports tighter immigration laws.

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