By DEEPA IYER
Washington, D.C. (April 27, 2011) – South Asian Americans Leading Together and The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, along with the Arab American Institute, the National Immigration Forum and the Rights Working Group, welcome the decision by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to modify the National Security Entry Exit Registration System.
According to DHS through a notice published in the Federal Register, effective tomorrow, nationals and citizens of countries currently subject to NSEERS are no longer required to register.
The NSEERS program was a counter-productive response in the wake of September 11, 2001, and required certain non-immigrants to register at ports of entry and local immigration offices; this process entailed fingerprints, photographs and lengthy questioning. One controversial aspect of the NSEERS program was a “domestic call-in” component that solicited registrations from more than 80,000 males who were inside the United States on temporary visas from predominantly Arab, South Asian, or Muslim-majority countries.
The specific parameters of NSEERS revealed it to be a system that was a clear example of profiling: discriminatory, arbitrary, and, as DHS itself has stated, an ineffective national security measure.
DHS has notified key stakeholders about the delisting of countries from the NSEERS regulations, and suggested that individuals residing in the U.S. and facing removal or a denial of immigration benefits because of NSEERS will be addressed on a case-by-case basis. The groups look forward to working with DHS to ensure that favorable discretion is exercised toward individuals facing immigration consequences because of an NSEERS-related issue. It is critical that DHS view this rule as a starting point for granting relief retroactively for those affected by NSEERS. Ultimately, these groups believe that NSEERS must be repealed in its entirety.
SAALT and our community partners are available to provide additional information about NSEERS as well as what its termination means for the South Asian community.
“SAALT has been advocating for an end to NSEERS since the program was instituted in late 2002. We believe that the program targeted individuals for differential treatment under the immigration system simply because of their country of origin and religion. While this is an important step forward, we hope that other government agencies and Congress will move forward to eliminate all forms of profiling through internal guidance as well as laws such as the End Racial Profiling Act.”
Deepa Iyer is the Executive Director of SAALT.