MPAC Applauds Obama Administration's Decision to Dismantle NSEERS

December 22, 2016

Photo by Jeremy Brooks (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Photo by Jeremy Brooks (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Obama administration announced today its decision to dismantle the Bush-era Muslim registry program, known as National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). NSEERS was used to register and track mostly Arab and Muslim non-citizens and President Obama suspended the registry in 2011. The Department of Homeland Security submitted a rule change to NSEERS for public posting on Thursday morning.

NSEERS Failed to Produce Meaningful Results

NSEERS was proven to be a dangerous, ineffective tool. A report commissioned by the DHS Office of Inspector General showed that NSEERS was an obsolete anti-terrorism apparatus that “should be terminated.” Although more than 93,000 people were deported, the government did not achieve a single terrorism-related conviction.

These individuals often failed to receive proper notice and their right to counsel was routinely violated. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination condemned the mandated racial profiling component of NSEERS.

Last month, nearly 200 organizations, including MPAC, called on President Obama to rescind the existing NSEERS structure before he leaves the White House. The ACLU and other civil liberties organizations delivered over 280,000 petition signatures to President Obama to repeal the program.

Partnering With Our Elected Officials

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman penned a letter to President Obama asking him to dismantle the NSEERS program on the basis of its unconstitutionality. California State Senator Ricardo Lara introduced a bill that would bar state agencies from providing information to the federal government for the purposes of creating a Muslim database.

More than 50 members of Congress called on President Obama to eliminate the NSEERS regulatory framework, referring to it as “a waste of resources, costing American taxpayers more than $10 million annually.” If your representative signed onto the letter, please reach out to their offices to thank them for their support.

Engaging our local and state officials is crucial to preventing the next administration from taking harmful actions against American Muslims and other minority communities. Coalition-building, strengthening our relationships, and reaching across the aisle will help protect the most vulnerable communities. The next four to eight years will be a struggle on limiting executive power by the next Administration through constitutional checks and balances residing in the Congress and state governments.

It will also be an era of debates between the political appointees of President-elect Trump and the career civil servants who remain in the government regardless of who is president. These career public servants have great institutional history in engaging American Muslim and other communities and how that engagement serves our collective American interests.

Muslim Registry Under Trump?

Asked on Wednesday about the future of the proposed Muslim ban and registry, Trump said, "You know my plans." In the wake of the Berlin attack, he reaffirmed his commitment to a Muslim registry. Originally, he proposed a broad ban on Muslim immigration but later introduced the idea of halting immigration from countries with high rates of terrorism. He stands by his plans to reintroduce an invasive registry to track and monitor Muslims.

Although the framework of the program will be removed, the next administration has the authority to rebuild a dangerous NSEERS-type program from scratch. Already, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to sue the next administration if it assembles a Muslim registry.

Americans of all backgrounds must join together and prevent discriminatory policies that target any community and violate rights and liberties enshrined in the US Constitution. Today is a victory for civil liberties, but we must continue to preserve our rights by redoubling our efforts to building coalitions and engaging our elected officials.

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