From The World Journal
March 22, 2003
Air travel from New York to Southeast Asia has dwindled in the
wake of the widespread outbreak of pneumonia in Asia and the onset
of war against Iraq. However, flights to Indonesia have been packed
as the deadline for the Special Registration program, required for
males from 25 countries, approaches. Many Indonesian citizens of
Chinese descent are afraid to reveal their illegal status and are
packing their bags to go home.
The program was introduced to monitor non-citizens living in the
United States after the 9/11 attacks. 25 countries are listed because
of possible links to terrorist groups and are mostly Muslim countries
in central Asia and northern Africa, including Indonesia, where
there is a large Chinese population.
Men from those countries living and working in the United States
have to register with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
The deadline is April 25 for citizens of Bangladesh, Egypt, Jordan
and Kuwait. Those who do not comply run the risk of being deported
and it might affect their future application for a visa. Many Chinese
Indonesians are leaving the country or preparing to hide.
A worker on the Upper East Side, who calls himself Eddie, just
quit his job and is returning to Jakarta. He said he overstayed
his visa and will be arrested if he goes to the registration. He
decided that he should return to Indonesia first and then try to
Like many new and illegal immigrants, Eddie relied on a unique
network shared by his fellow Chinese Indonesians. He added that
Chinese Indonesians share some similar characteristics that he can
tell by just one look on the street. Although there is no formal
organization, most of them are still able to stay in touch, which
is how he found his job. Most Chinese Indonesians work in upscale
Chinese restaurants because they speak English, he added.
Eddie said he called the Indonesian Consulate in New York regarding
the issue and was told he should go home. Being here alone, Eddie
decided that he would go home to visit his parents but many others
are staying to try their luck.
Sin Yen Ling, a lawyer at the Asian American Legal Defense and
Education Fund, said the Special Registration program is a big violation
of human rights, and only affects Muslim countries, which is why
immigrant groups have been fighting against the program. She said
she hopes that the Chinese community can pay attention to this issue
as Indonesia has a sizable Chinese population.
Translated from Chinese by Larry Tung
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