Obama Administration Ending Dormant Plan for Screening Muslim Men

President Barack Obama

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Washington, DC – The United States is ending the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), a now dormant program that once was used to track mostly Arab and Muslim men, after the deadly September 11, 2001 (referred as 911) attacks on the US homeland.

The Obama administration halted use of the program in 2011. “DHS ceased use of NSEERS more than five years ago, after it was determined the program was redundant, inefficient and provided no increase in security,” the department said in a statement. “The intervening years have shown that NSEERS is not only obsolete, but that its use would divert limited personnel and resources from more effective measures.”

“The Department of Homeland Security is removing outdated regulations pertaining to the National Security Entry-Exit Registration Systems (NSEERS) program, with an immediate effective date,” said Neema Hakim, a department spokesman.

Hakim said the “intervening years have shown that NSEERS is not only obsolete, but that its use would divert limited personnel and resources from more effective measures.”

Joanne Lin, senior legislative counsel, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a statement, “NSEERS was a completely failed counter-terrorism tool and massive profiling program that didn’t yield a single terrorism conviction in nearly a decade. The ACLU applauds the Obama administration for terminating NSEERS for good. With this action, the US is on the right path to protect Muslim and Arab immigrants from discrimination.”

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently called on President Obama to dismantle the NSEERS program. In a letter, Schneiderman wrote that NSEERS, created after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, did not reduce terrorist activity and instead “undermined trust” in law enforcement and instilled fear in some communities.

Praising Obama’s decision, Schneiderman said in a statement, “This is a win for civil rights and for smart, effective law enforcement, as well as for the strong coalition of advocacy organizations and others who fought to dismantle this discriminatory tool.”

”My office will continue do everything it can to protect the rights of all New Yorkers, and ensure equal justice under the law for all, regardless of religion or national origin,” he added.

Hailing the decision, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement, ”The program was a failed counterterrorism tool, was highly discriminatory, and led to widespread fear and needless dislocation of families across the United States.”

Calling the NSEERS being used as “now a political football,” Ravi Batra, New York Attorney and Chair, National Advisory Council, South Asian Affairs said, “After 9/11 and the most recent Berlin terror attack, we in the United States, in the defense of our people and sovereignty, walk to create a system that tracks every visitor from entry exit. However, to target merely Muslims or Muslim men would be both ineffectual and unconstitutional.” Batra concluded, “Public safety and national security ought to be above politics, especially temporal partisan politics.”

Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) applauded advocates and the Administration for taking this critical step to protect Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities who President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to place on a “registry.”

Megan Essaheb, Assistant Director of Immigration and Immigrants’ Rights, AAJC said in a statement, “The strong and effective advocacy efforts of AMEMSA communities, civil rights organizations and our allies in the past month illustrates how much stronger and more organized we are today than we were 14 years ago when NSEERS was initiated.”

Among other advocacy efforts in support of the NSEERS rescission was a letter to President Obama signed on November 22, 2016 by nearly 200 human rights, civil liberties, education, social justice, and inter-faith organizations; a letter by Members of Congress on the same topic and a petition by DRUM and Moveon.org with over 135,000 signatures.

Enacted in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Bush-era program called NSEERS has been roundly criticized, even by internal federal government watchdogs, as being ineffective as an anti-terrorism tool, noted the AAJC.

“As a result of NSEERS, over 83,000 boys and men who held non-immigrant visas from 25 Muslim-majority countries were required to register and 13,000 were placed into removal proceedings. Yet not a single known terrorist conviction resulted from this blanket policy, which detained immigrants, tore families apart, and cut short educational opportunities,” concluded the AAJC.

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