"This is an urgent situation. What's happening very much resembles what happened to the Japanese around World War II," says one of the protest organizers, who would only identify herself as Yo for fear of police retaliation. "And it very much resembles the initial stages of Nazi Germany."
Chalk it up to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. It was his idea to require that certain males over the age of 16 born in 20 countries -- all of them predominantly Muslim, with the exception of North Korea -- submit to "special registration" or be deported. Special registration entails appearing before an INS official for hours of fingerprinting, photographing and extensive questioning, such as "Do you know any terrorists?" Two deadlines for special registration for men from certain countries have already passed. The protest is scheduled the same day as the third deadline, which applies to men from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Critics of special registration -- including immigration attorneys and civil liberties advocates -- complain that it invades privacy and, more importantly, won't help identify terrorists. Congress has already acknowledged that few if any of the Sept. 11 hijackers would have been subject to special registration and that no terrorist would come in for questioning anyway.
What's more, hundreds of immigrants have been detained for months on end with no explanation of their crime and no contact with family.
"First we apologize to the Japanese for what we did to them, and then we come back and do the same thing to Muslims," Yo says. "We demonize them as terrorists."
The protest is scheduled for 10 a.m., Friday, Feb. 21, at the corner of Forsyth Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, in front of the INS office.