LOS ANGELES (Dec. 22, 2016) — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced today that it will publish a regulation to rescind the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) program.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice applauds advocates and the Administration for taking this critical step to protect Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities who President-elect Trump has vowed to place on a “registry” based on the false and biased assumption that people of a particular religion or nationality pose a greater national security risk and should be subject to racial and religious profiling.
Enacted in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Bush-era program called NSEERS has been roundly criticized, even by internal federal government watchdogs, as being ineffective as an anti-terrorism tool. As a result of NSEERS, over 83,000 boys and men who held non-immigrant visas from 25 Muslim-majority countries were required to register and 13,000 were placed into removal proceedings. Yet not a single known terrorist conviction resulted from this blanket policy, which detained immigrants, tore families apart, and cut short educational opportunities.
Among the advocacy efforts in support of the NSEERS rescission was a letter to President Obama signed on November 22, 2016 by nearly 200 human rights, civil liberties, education, social justice, and inter-faith organizations; a letter by Members of Congress on the same topic and a petition by DRUM and Moveon.org with over 135,000 signatures.
“The NSEERS program has been rightly compared by both supporters and opponents to the racially hostile Executive Order 9066, which led to Japanese American internment during World War II, where innocent people including mostly U.S citizens were incarcerated solely on the basis of their national origin,” said Laboni Hoq, litigation director at AAAJ – Los Angeles. “We are encouraged that the Obama administration exercised leadership in taking steps to prevent this dark period of our history from repeating, and we will take the baton and do the same in the coming days.”
“We stand ready to oppose any policies that target or profile AMEMSA communities, which the new Administration may put in place of NSEERS. Regardless of how such policies are packaged, their discriminatory anti-Muslim intent has been well-established by the President-elect’s campaign rhetoric, that was intended to undermine our bedrock Constitutional commitment to religious pluralism and divide us as a nation,” said Elica Vafaie, staff attorney for National Security and Civil Rights at AAAJ – ALC.
“The strong and effective advocacy efforts of AMEMSA communities, civil rights organizations and our allies in the past month illustrates how much stronger and more organized we are today than we were 14 years ago when NSEERS was initiated,” said Megan Essaheb, assistant director of immigration and immigrants’ rights at AAAJ – AAJC.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice is a national affiliation of five leading organizations advocating for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and other underserved communities to promote a fair and equitable society for all. The affiliation’s members are: Advancing Justice – AAJC (Washington, D.C.), Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, Advancing Justice – Atlanta, Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco), and Advancing Justice – Chicago.