March 26, 2023

Nearly 200 Groups Seek to Eliminate Registration Program Targeting Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian Immigrants 

Laboni Hoq
Laboni Hoq, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – LA.

LOS ANGELES (Nov. 22, 2016) — Asian Americans Advancing Justice-California (Advancing Justice-CA), together with almost 200 human rights, civil liberties, education, social justice, and inter-faith organizations nationwide, has signed-on to a letter urging the White House to rescind the regulations that created the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) program, which could be used as a stepping-stone for President-elect Trump’s “Muslim database.”

NSEERS went into effect shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks in an attempt  to register and track non-immigrant visa holders from 25 countries, which disproportionately targeted Muslim, Arab, and South Asian visitors to the United States. It proved to be discriminatory, ineffective, and inefficient. In 2011 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) suspended the program.  However, because it was not dismantled, the program can easily be revived.

“The President has a unique opportunity to do now what it should have been done long ago — take down a program that DHS itself found obsolete and inefficient as an anti-terrorism tool,” said Laboni Hoq, litigation director at Advancing Justice-LA. “To leave the program in place would certainly allow its misuse by President-elect Trump who has repeatedly expressed discriminatory, anti-Muslim motives for reviving it.”

NSEERS profiled non-immigrant males based on national origin and faith. The program was widely considered ineffective by civil rights groups as well as DHS’s independent watchdog, the Office of the Inspector General. Tens of thousands of men and boys were forced to register under NSEERS, but resulted in no known convictions by the U.S. government for a terrorism-related crime.

“It was a failed national security program that resulted in civil liberties violations through profiling, unlawful arrests and criminalization of our communities.” stated Elica Vafaie, national security and civil rights attorney at Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus. “NSEERS led to thousands of individuals being placed in removal proceedings, deportations, tearing families and communities apart, and abruptly ending productive jobs and educational aspirations.”

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect of other racially-charged, anti-immigrant and unconstitutional laws such as Arizona’s SB1070, recently met with President-elect Trump toting a memo which placed “update and reintroduce” NSEERS as the first item on a DHS “Strategic Plan for the First 365 Days.”  This is consistent with Kobach’s previous statement that the President-elect’s team is considering modeling an immigrant vetting system after NSEERS.

Reinstating a program similar to NSEERS would be a gross violation of the country’s founding values of equality and fairness. It is reminiscent of historical injustices in America such as the Chinese Exclusion Act and the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans in internment camps.

Advancing Justice – CA urges the White House to eliminate NSEERS entirely before President-elect Trump takes office to ensure that no one in this country is subject to inappropriate profiling or racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination.

Read the full letter here.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice-California is a joint project of Advancing Justice-Los Angeles and Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles is the nation’s largest Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) legal and civil rights organization and serves more than 15,000 individuals and organizations every year. Founded in 1983 as the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Advancing Justice – LA’s mission is to advocate for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society. Through direct legal services, impact litigation, policy analysis and advocacy, leadership development and capacity building, Advancing Justice – LA seeks to serve the most vulnerable members of the AANHPI community while also building a strong AANHPI voice for civil rights and social justice.

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