INS steps up tracking
moves of immigrants

Foreigners must report changes
in addresses or face deportation

Staff and news reports

WASHINGTON >> The Immigration and Naturalization Service is stepping up enforcement of a 50-year-old law requiring foreigners to alert the government within 10 days when they change addresses.

The new policy was signaled by a proposed rule change announced yesterday by Attorney General John Ashcroft. The rule will require the government to update nearly three dozen immigration forms to better explain and give notice to foreigners that they must report any move to the government.

"By clarifying the existing requirement that noncitizens report their addresses to the INS, we are able to increase our ability to locate quickly an alien if removal proceedings must be initiated," Ashcroft said.

The government did not announce any increase in INS agents or employees to help accommodate the change.

Congressional critics have charged the INS with being lax in tracking down foreign residents who do not report an address change. Punishment for not reporting a move has been rare.

Those who fail to comply with the policy could face deportation or be charged for a misdemeanor with penalties of up to 30 days in prison and a $200 maximum fine, said Deputy District Director Wayne Wills of the Immigration and Naturalization Service of Honolulu.

"We're trying to get a better grasp and efficiently track those who come to the United States," Wills said.

Honolulu INS officials receive about 60 AR-11 change of address forms a month, or 720 forms a year. Wills said the number of applications is likely to increase as foreigners are reminded of the policy.

A Justice Department official said the rule change yesterday was meant to "shift the responsibility from the government to the immigrant for making sure the government knows where the person is located."

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the rule is meant as a warning that foreigners who fail to comply could face deportation.

Immigrant advocacy groups said the policy is overreaching.

"The attorney general is threatening to put people in jail and have them deported for the equivalent of having an overdue library book," said Angela Kelley, a director of the National Immigration Forum in Washington.

"It is ludicrous to believe this is going to keep us safe from terrorism. No terrorist is going to turn in a change of address form. This is only going to hurt the law-abiding immigrants who are trying to keep pace with all the things we require."

Edward Murrell, an immigration attorney in San Jose, Calif., said the measure would further separate immigrants from the INS.

"This is a crafty way of gaining the power to deport just about anybody the government wants," he said. "The result will be that immigrants refuse to work with the Justice Department." The Justice Department has taken a number of steps to better track immigrants and enforce immigration laws since Sept. 11.

The department announced Friday that a group of law enforcement officers in Florida will be given the ability to enforce immigration laws in cases involving terrorism and national security. Immigration advocacy groups and many police departments have long fought giving police having that power, saying illegal immigrants will be reluctant to call police for help.

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