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Registration efforts should not be ended

Tuesday, December 2, 2003

The federal government has ended a program started immediately after Sept. 11 that required tens of thousands of Middle Eastern men and boys to register with the government. Since its inception, over 83,000 foreigners have complied with the mandate and some were deported for expired visas. What we'll never know is just how many others were forced to leave this country out of fear the program would uncover a checkered past. And for that reason, I'm disappointed the program was discontinued.

Civil rights groups had protested the program targeted "innocent" people by requiring that they simply register in this country. But if you'll recall, thousands of "innocent" people were killed on Sept. 11 because our internal security was lax and we accepted the notion that anyone should be allowed into our great nation. That policy may one day come back to bite us you know where.

I see nothing wrong with making a simple requirement for those from destinations known to harbor terrorists. There was no massive "grilling" or interrogation involved; it was just a method of assisting the country in knowing the whereabouts of those from 25 targeted countries.

I believe that the end of the program was truly a concession to the protesters. The administration will never admit that. The new federal policy is now designed to address individuals instead of large groups of people. And though this may be more palatable to the civil rights groups, I fear that there will be terrorists missed through this new process. And someday, I fear, we'll relive Sept. 11.

A new program starting in January will require photos and fingerprints of millions of visitors to this country. That will help in the fight against our enemies. But any reduction in our efforts to weed out those who would bring us harm is a policy of insanity. If "innocent" people are inconvenienced by this policy it's a small price to pay for the freedom of this nation. In an ideal world, none of this would be required. But Sept. 11 proved that this world is anything but ideal.



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