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INS: Many WTC victims illegal immigrants

By Terry Frieden
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Immigration officials believe dozens -- perhaps hundreds -- of illegally undocumented workers are among the victims of the World Trade Center attack, and are promising not to take action against their friends or family members who may also be in the United States illegally if they come forward with information on the missing.

They've made a similar promise to employers of the illegal workers.

"We have anecdotal information suggesting anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred of them are missing, but we really don't know," an immigration official told CNN.

"We're getting indications of this from interest groups and non-government organizations," said another immigration official. "That's why the Commissioner went to New York," he said.

At a meeting at a Franciscan church center in Manhattan on Friday, new Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner James Ziglar publicly pleaded for anyone with information to step forward without fear.

"It is crucial that local authorities get the help they need in identifying victims and the missing," Ziglar said. "I want to personally urge the immigrant community to come forward, and assure everyone that INS will not seek, and local authorities will not divulge, any information provided in the rescue and recovery effort."

INS officials said they have received reports second hand that some individuals have said they are afraid to step forward because of their immigration status.


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