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November 23, 2016

Letter to Obama: No Return to NSEERS under Trump

This week, Human Rights First joined nearly 200 other human rights, civil liberties, education, social justice, and inter-faith organizations in urging the Obama Administration to take immediate action to rescind the regulatory framework behind the National Security Exit-Entry Registration System (NSEERS). 

Created in the wake of 9/11, NSEERS was a system which required certain non-citizens to appear at local immigration offices for fingerprinting, photo taking, and interrogations when they traveled to the United States. NSEERS was a discriminatory policy which targeted foreign nationals based on religion, ethnicity, gender, and national origin. All but one of the 25 countries listed were Muslim-majority countries. It also had no national security or counterterrorism value.

While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) took a positive step by removing the list of countries whose nationals were subjected to the NSEERs registration process in April 2011, it failed to dismantle the program's regulatory framework. In light of President-elect Trump's campaign proposals to register and track Muslim foreigners, there is a risk that NSEERs may be reutilized.

The letter that Human Rights First signed requests that the current administration take immediate steps to remove the regulatory structure of NSEERS and stop any future use of the program. As acknowledged by government officials such as James W. Ziglar, former commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, NSEERs was an ineffective counterterrorism tool which caused the government to "use resources in the field that could have been much better deployed."

''To my knowledge, not one actual terrorist was identified. But what we did get was a lot of bad publicity, litigation and disruption in our relationships with immigrant communities and countries that we needed help from in the war on terror,'' Ziglar said.

NSEERS resulted in tremendous harm for individuals who were directly affected. More than 13,000 men who complied with the program faced deportation charges. Families were torn apart, small businesses in immigrant neighborhoods closed their doors, and students discarded their educational aspirations.

NSEERS was clearly a discriminatory policy aimed at singling out Arabs and Muslims, which is contrary to American ideals. The Obama Administration should act to prevent future profiling by rescinding NSEERS's regulatory framework.