The Obama administration just closed a program that would have helped the Trump administration’s promise of creating a Muslim registry easily become a reality.
The National Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) was created in the wake of 9/11, requiring people from 25 countries to register with the government and attend check ups with federal officials.
With the exception of North Korea, all of the countries had a mostly Muslim population. The program deported around 13,000 people, but successfully convicted zero people of terrorism.
“No known terrorism convictions have resulted from the program,” wrote a joint letter from over 50 Democratic House members earlier this month, pleading for President Obama to permanently undo NSEERS, saying that it was “Your passport is labeled and put into this strange red bag,” said Ammar Khawam, a student was required to register through NSEERS.
“Someone takes you into an office, and you just sit there (for hours). People are sitting there not talking. You can’t use your phone.
If this was a universal practice, I wouldn’t be upset. But when it specifically applies to you, then it’s disturbing. It’s demeaning.”
President Obama suspended the program in 2011, but did not fully shut it down. Instead, he elected to clear the 25 countries off the registry, leaving it blank but still dormant. That changed today, when the Department of Homeland Security officially published a regulation that will shut down NSEERS by tomorrow.
“The regulations behind special registration and the manual collection of information from nonimmigrants date back more than two decades,” said DHS spokesman Neema Hakim about NSEERS. “They have long been replaced by automated systems that are far better equipped to face the evolving landscape of international terrorism.”
Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” during his campaign. After intense criticisms that such a proposal violates the constitution, Trump revised his rhetoric to banning people from “areas of the world where there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe, or our allies.”
Reacting to recent terror attacks in Germany and Turkey, Trump said “You know my plans. All along, I’ve been proven to be right. 100 percent correct. It’s an attack on humanity. That’s what it is. An attack on humanity and it’s got to be stopped.”
NSEERS would have empowered the Trump administration to simply add primarily-Muslim countries back onto the list again. Now that it has been dismantled, the Trump administration will have to start over from scratch to create a new program, leaving the proposal more vulnerable to Democrat or public opposition.
“This is the right decision by Secretary Johnson. We commend him, and the Obama administration, for letting it be known that such registry programs are futile and have no place in our country,” said Abed Ayoub of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
“However the community cannot be at ease; the next administration has indicated that they will consider implementing similar programs. We will work twice as hard to protect our community and ensure such programs do not come to fruition.”