The Department of Homeland Security program known as NSEERS (National Security Entry-Exit Registration System), was established in 2002, on the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, and was government policy through 2011, the year President Obama suspended it. The program required certain individuals visiting and living in the country on visas from Muslim-majority countries to register with the government. For a more detailed look at the program and the hardships faced by those who were required to register, read Angilee Shah’s writeup at PRI.
The last time the US tried “extreme vetting,” it harmed more people than it protected. https://t.co/NNZb83haRc
— PRI’s The World (@pritheworld) December 16, 2016
Desis Rising Up And Moving (DRUM), Move On, and other civil rights groups have been working on dismantling NSEERS for years, pushing against it as a massive profiling program targeting people based on their religion and ethnicity, one that never resulted in a single terrorism conviction despite registering 93,000 people and deporting 13,000. In their effort to encourage Obama to dismantle NSEERS before Donald Trump takes office as president and make it more difficult for Trump to create a new registry targeting Muslims, 51 Congress members signed a letter to Obama, civil rights groups started petitions, and thousands of activists joined a December 12 march on the White House. (See images from the march shared by Move On campaign manager Imran F. Ali at the end of this post.)
Thanks to @DesisRisingUp @MoveOn for organizing a rally abt #MuslimRegistry. Over 300K people and 200 orgs ask @POTUS to dismantle NSEERS. pic.twitter.com/4MclNzqvXG — Deepa Iyer (@dviyer) December 12, 2016
The combined efforts of those fighting against a (past and future) Muslim registry payed off on Thursday when the Department of Homeland Security filed an official notice that it is deleting the published rules for NSEERS, which it called an “obsolete” program no longer providing a “discernable public benefit.”
DRUM has been one of the civil rights groups at the forefront of the campaign to dismantle NSEERS, and on Thursday it posted a message about its successful campaign and future efforts on its Facebook page:
As an organization that has been on the frontlines of the resistance against the NSEERS (Special Registrations) program for the last 15 year, we are thrilled that the Obama Administration and the DHS have made the right decision and dismantled the regulations that allow the NSEERS program to exist.
While the Trump Administration can still write new regulations, they will have to start from scratch and that gives our communities and allies opportunities to organize, resist, and possibly even block such efforts.
Professor Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights clinic at the Pennsylvania State University, spoke to The Guardian about the NSEERS program finally being dismantled, saying “This is the best Christmas present I could have asked for.” Wadhia, who has written about the history of NSEERS and its ending, emphasized the significance of the decision to end the program:
The magnitude of this win for Muslim, Arab and South Asian organizations; rights groups; and the rule of law cannot be underestimated as it comes on the heels of nearly 15 years of uphill and tireless work to defend those affected by a version of “Muslim registry” and years of advocacy with every branch of government calling for an end to a program that was at once discriminatory, counterproductive and expensive.