When Will The “Shame of NSEERS” End?
Washington, DC | July 26, 2007 | The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) reiterates it call for the end of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) and “Special Registration” program. Since late 2002 ADC has been working on numerous fronts to shed light on the continuing problems faced by thousands of individuals as a result of the discriminatory and poorly constructed and implemented “Special Registration Program.” Today, ADC calls on President Bush, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Chertoff, and Attorney General Gonzales to completely terminate this program and address its negative residual effects
In addition to advocating for the end of the program at the highest levels of government, ADC has held town hall meetings, briefings, and panel discussion on the need to end NSEERS. ADC has also placed specially-designed ads in periodicals across the United States, view the ad at: https://www.adc.org/PDF/NSEERSad.pdf
ADC President Hon. Mary Rose Oakar said, “Now that the DHS US-VISIT program has been implemented at US airports and points of entry and it applies to all visitors (with limited exemptions) entering the United States, what is the purpose of NSEERS? NSEERS targets only people from Arab and Muslim countries, along with North Korea, that is discrimination based on national origin. It is time to end the Shame of NSEERS.”
EVEN DHS OFFICIALS SAY NSEERS SHOULD BE TERMINATED
Since the inception of the program ADC, several members of Congress, including key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and numerous civil libertarians and immigrants rights advocates, have taken issues with the constitutional legality of NSEERS discrimination based on national origin. In fact, former DHS Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security Asa Hutchinson said, at the 2004 ADC Convention, “it is our hope to completely end this special registration program because of our long term goal is to treat everybody the same way and not based upon where you came from.”
In late 2002, the Department of Justice’s Immigration and Naturalization Service (who has since been merged into the Department of Homeland Security-DHS and its component agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement-ICE) launched a campaign known as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) with Special Call-In Registration phases.
The program was initially portrayed as an anti-terrorism measure which required male visitors to the US (from 25 Arab and Muslim countries, and North Korea) to be fingerprinted, photographed, and questioned by immigration officers. At the time, INS officials told ADC, that they themselves were ill prepared to carry out this special call in registration and acknowledged numerous shortcomings. However, despite DHS’s suspension of a few requirements in 2004, there were and still are criminal and civil penalties associated with failure to comply with NSEERS, including arrest, detention, monetary fines and/or removal from the United States.
The program was rolled out in separate phases and male visitors were asked to voluntarily comply with the program. Failure to adequately publicize the program and to train immigration officers sufficiently led to poor implementation of NSEERS. Thousands of men who were required to register failed to do so many, no doubt, due to lack of notice, and are now vulnerable to NSEERS penalties. Reports indicate that hundreds of individuals who had voluntarily appeared to register at INS offices around the country were arrested and detained without reasonable justification. According to news reports, many of those detained had applications pending for adjustment of status on which the immigration service had not yet acted.
ADC has noted that approximately 84,000 Arabs and Muslims registered voluntarily and subsequently about 14,000 were subjected to deportation hearings for voluntarily complying with the program. Yet, no registrants were charged with terrorism. In December 2004, the NSEERS program was modified by DHS, but many elements remain and are subject to abuse including: departure registration; registration at ports of entry; as well as the potential for the re-initiation of the call-in phase. It seems clear that NSEERS has become just another tool used in immigration enforcement and law enforcement in general, which raises serious constitutional issues as the program clearly discriminates on the basis of national origin.