Washington, DC – According to the New York Times, the Obama Administration has finally ended the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) program, a national registry of visitors from predominantly Muslim countries. This registry, established following the attacks on September 11, has been derided by advocacy and civil rights groups as a discriminatory tool used to both deport Muslim visitors and to deny them future admission into the United States.
In a new Medium piece entitled “Keeping NSEERS out of Trump’s hands was the right thing to do”, renowned immigration lawyer and activist David Leopold characterizes the dismantling of the NSEERS program as a victory, particularly as Donald Trump, who has threatened to ban Muslims from entering the United States, prepares to take office in less than one month.
“The Obama Administration has finally done away with a one of the most discriminatory and ineffective vestiges of Post-9/11 America; the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), a national registry of visitors from predominantly Muslim countries. The program, which was suspended in 2011 but remained on the books, wasn’t considered by authorities to have had any demonstrated public safety or national security benefit. It did little to keep us safe and offended American values.
President Obama was right to nix it.”
Leopold also explains that while the NSEERS program was intended to decrease the risk of terrorism, it did little of the sort. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security has been calling for its abolishment since 2006.
According to Leopold:
“At its peak NSEERS did little to enhance national security. Rather it served as a web in which to trap and deport people based on their nationality and religion…NSEERS, which was reportedly implemented with the assistance of anti-immigrant hardliner Kris Kobach, did little to make the U.S. any safer from terrorism. Rather it was unwieldy, inefficient and damaged thousands of lives. ”
To read “Keeping NSEERS out of Trump’s hands was the right thing to do” in its entirety, click here, or see below.
“The Obama Administration has finally done away with a one of the most discriminatory and ineffective vestiges of Post-9/11 America; the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), a national registry of visitors from predominantly Muslim countries. The program, which was suspended in 2011 but remained on the books, wasn’t considered by authorities to have had any demonstrated public safety or national security benefit.
President Obama was right to nix it.
In the years after the 9/11 attacks NSEERS was implemented to register men from 25 predominantly Muslim countries arriving at U.S. ports of entry or already in the country. It contained a myriad of technical requirements — including complicated call-in procedures and departure restrictions — which, in effect, served only to set up Muslim visitors for deportation or future refusal of admission to the U.S. From its inception NSEERS was widely derided by advocacy groups and civil rights organizations as discriminatory based on race and religion. At its peak NSEERS did little to enhance national security. Rather it served as a web in which to trap and deport people based on their nationality and religion. As outlined by the the American Immigration Council’s Royce Murray in a recent post:
The fall out was that many registrants faced immigration consequences whether or not they complied with NSEERS. Any nonimmigrant subject to registration who failed to comply without “good cause” was considered to have failed to maintain his immigration status. Likewise, any registrant who failed to meet departure requirements was deemed to have entered the United States “to engage in unlawful activity.” There was also the possibility of facing criminal prosecution as one who “willfully fails or refuses” to register. But many of those who successfully complied with NSEERS faced immigration proceedings as well if their nonimmigrant visa had expired.
NSEERS, which was reportedly implemented with the assistance of anti-immigrant hardliner Kris Kobach, did little to make the U.S. any safer from terrorism. Rather it was unwieldy, inefficient and damaged thousands of lives. Senior officials at the Department of Homeland Security had been calling for termination of the program since 2006. According to the New York Times,
A 2012 report by the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security said that since 2006, senior officials in the agency had been calling for the termination of the program, and in the report, the inspector general recommended that it be ended. “Information obtained from fingerprints, flight manifests, travel and identification documents and intelligence sources is more valuable in determining who poses a potential national security risk,” the report said, citing customs and border control officers.
“Leaving the regulatory structure of the Nseers program in place provides no discernible public benefit,” the report said.
Moreover, NSEERS offended American values. Again, Royce Murray:
The idea of a religious or national origin registry that treats people categorically and institutionalizes racial profiling is antithetical to American values. If we learned anything after 9/11 it’s that demonizing an entire group of people does not heighten security but rather what is needed is strategic, targeted enforcement and stronger alliances within communities to foster collaboration and communication that can ultimately keep us all safer.
The NSEERS program has thankfully been on mothballs since 2011. But its regulatory structure has remained in place. The election of Donald Trump — amid his bigoted calls to ban Muslims entering the U.S. and register of those already here — has raised serious concerns that Trump will revive NSEERS. Shortly after Trump’s election Politico reported that Kobach, a Trump immigration advisor, claimed that the president-elect’s team is considering a system modeled after NSEERS.
The fear of an NSEERS revival prompted immigration and civil rights advocates and public officials to call on the Obama Administration to finally do away with the NSEERS regulatory infrastructure altogether, keeping it out of Trump’s hands. NSEERS opponents point out that the program was repugnant to American values and did little to make the country safer. According to the New York Times:
In recent days, dozens of Democratic officials in Washington, as well as the New York State attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, have called for the regulations to be rescinded.
“No known terrorism convictions have resulted from the program,” read a joint letter, dated Dec. 1, from more than 50 Democratic members of the House of Representatives. Mr. Schneiderman, a Democrat and a vocal opponent of Mr. Trump, said the program was “an affront to our core American values of pluralism and equal justice under law.”
Over the past several weeks, progressive organizations have led the charge to get the White House to end the program. Last week, a broad and diverse coalition of groups, including DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving), CREDO Action, MoveOn.org, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, MomsRising and the ACLU, marched from the Department of Justice to the White House to deliver over 340,000 signatures asking President Obama to end the program:
Around 200 Muslim activists and allies marched from the Department of Justice to the White House yesterday, asking Obama to dismantle the indefinitely suspended National Security Exit-Entry Registry System before Trump is [inaugurated].
“[Trump immigration advisor] Kris Kobach actually accidentally released the Department of Homeland Security plan a few weeks ago, and number one on the list was reinstituting NSEERS,” said Iram Ali, campaign manager with MoveOn.org. “This is why it’s so important for President Obama to shut it down now, because it will give us an upper hand going into the next administration.”
It was indeed very important for President Obama to finally shut down NSEERS.
Given the anti-immigrant agenda of Trump and so many on his team, we can expect to fight this and many more battles of civil rights, racial profiling and basic decency with the incoming Trump administration. To be clear, the demise of the NSEERS visitor registry does not prevent Trump from trying to register or keep people out of the U.S. based on their religion or national origin. But it’s an important message to all Americans that we need not tolerate nor collaborate with institutionalized racial and religious profiling and discrimination.”
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