MPAC Welcomes New Government Programs to Address Travel, Religious Liberty, and Immigration


Washington, DC: The Muslim Public Affairs Council welcomes two new government initiatives addressing travel and religious liberties, and calls community attention upon proposed fee increases for immigration and naturalization applications under the in US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
For the past few years, MPAC has received several complaints regarding the wrongful inclusion of individuals on watch lists, resulting in inconvenience and the growing perception of unfair treatment during travel. On February 20th, the Department of Homeland Security announced and launched the Traveler's Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP).
Previously, community members were directed to fill out separate complaint forms with the appropriate government agency, such as US Custom and Border Protection (CBP), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) or the Department of State, along with airport operators when applicable. Now, travelers who have been repeatedly identified for additional screening can file ONE inquiry through DHS TRIP to have erroneous information corrected in DHS systems, and to seek redress.
DHS TRIP provides a way for travelers to address situations in which they believe they have been incorrectly delayed, denied boarding, identified for additional screening, or have otherwise experienced difficulties during their travel screening at transportation hubs, such as airports and train stations, or crossing US borders.
DHS TRIP enables travelers to outline their concerns in a single request via a secure Website. The information received will be shared with applicable DHS component agencies, such as the Transportation Security Administration and US Customs and Border Protection, as well as with the Department of State and when appropriate with airport and airline operators.
In addition to offering DHS TRIP, the department has taken a number of other steps to make the screening process more efficient and secure, to include the recent completion of a name-by-name review of the No-Fly list to ensure that only individuals currently posing a threat are included.
Visit http://www.dhs.gov/xtrvlsec/programs/gc_1169676919316.shtm to learn more about DHS TRIP.
MPAC also welcomes the launch of The First Freedom Project, a new initiative by the US Department of Justice to protect the religious freedom of all Americans. This project, announced last week by Attorney General Gonzales, is designed to provide additional enforcement tools for laws against religious discrimination and hate crimes. This new initiative will create a Department-wide Task Force on Religious Liberty, chaired by the Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division, to review DOJ policies impacting religious liberty, coordinate religious liberty cases, and improve outreach to stakeholder communities. It also includes a series of regional training seminars for religious, civil rights and community leaders, attorneys, government officials, and others interested in religious liberty issues.
For more information about The First Freedom Project, see: http://www.firstfreedom.gov.

US CIS Process Results in Drastic Fee Increase
In other news, MPAC would like to call attention to proposed fee increases for immigration and naturalization applications under the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
USCIS has submitted a new fee structure to the Federal Registrar in order to improve customer service, strengthen the security of the immigration system, and modernize its business infrastructure. Some applications, such as the I-485 - Application to Adjust Status from Temporary to Permanent Residence - will experience an increase from $180 to $1370, which will tremendously impact immigrants seeking complete naturalization.
Click here more information.
In a meeting with MPAC this week, USCIS officials expressed their interest in hearing from the public regarding these fee increases and thus have created space for a 60-day public comment on this proposal that will expire on April 2nd, 2007. Officials are interested in the potential and actual impact of these fee increases, and specifically seek factual data illustrating this impact.
Direct comments on the proposed rule using one of the following methods:
Federal eRulemaking portal: http://www.regulations.gov (a link is in the upper-right hand corner of this page), follow the instructions for submitting comments.
By email: Send your comments to OSComments@dhs.gov, Include the docket number (USCIS-2006-0044) in the subject line of the message.
By Facsimile: Federal eRulemaking Portal at 866-466-5370.
By U.S. Mail: Director, Regulatory Management Division, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, 111 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, 3rd Floor, Washington, DC 20529. To ensure proper handling, please reference DHS Docket No. USCIS-2006-0044 on your correspondence. This mailing address may also be used for paper, disk or CD-ROM submissions.

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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