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Attorney General’s “Cooperators Program” Raises Questions
by Carl R. Baldwin

On November 19, 2001, Attorney General Ashcroft announced the “Responsible Cooperators Program” that will reward immigrants with legal status if they provide the government with useful information about suspected terrorists. The program raises serious questions.

This is the promise: “Under this new initiative, the Department of Justice will provide immigration benefits to non-citizens who furnish information to help us apprehend terrorists or to stop terrorist attacks.” The Department will provide the illegal alien with the S visa when the information is “critical and reliable,” and the alien, by providing it. is “placed in danger.” On the reluctance of aliens not in legal status to make themselves known to the government, this point is made: “They may rest assured that the United States welcomes any reliable and useful information that they can provide to help us save lives in the future. In return we will help them make America their home.”

There are a number of questions that come to mind. If an alien who is not in legal status sees or hears something that he thinks might suggest that terrorist activity is afoot and reports it to the FBI, will he be taken seriously, or thought to be making something up to get legal status? If he is taken seriously, how can he be sure that he himself will not be subject to detention, as so many completely innocent aliens have been since September 11? What does “critical and reliable” mean, and is it more demanding than “reliable and useful”? How is it decided whether the informant will be “placed in danger”? Then there is another question: will someone providing this information “jump the line,” and get ahead of all the immigrants who have been waiting patiently to obtain legal status? If so, is that fair? There is, finally, the question of whether legal status and citizenship should ever be “bartered.” This question was asked and answered in the negative in a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor: “Don’t Dangle U.S. Citizenship” (

Given all these questions, one wonders whether the promise of the program may be a mirage.

About The Author

Carl R. Baldwin graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1980, and became a member of the New York State Bar a year later. He worked for three years with the New York City Law Department, and then entered solo practice in immigration law, which he has continued to the present. His work with clients has included asylum applications, deportation defense, visa processing, adjustment of status, and naturalization. He has also worked to implement special laws, such as the 1986 "amnesty" (The Immigration Reform and Control Act), and the 1998 Haitian reform act (The Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act). Mr. Baldwin is the author of Immigration News Monthly. He can be reached by e-mail at

He has written a book on immigration law, called "Immigration Questions and Answers," 1997, Allworth Press, 10 East 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010 (212) 777-8395. The book, which contains essential background information about how the immigration law works, can be ordered in both an English Edition and a Spanish version from