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DHS Ends Discriminatory Post-9/11 Registration and Tracking Program for Muslim Males in the U.S.

Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officially ended a Bush-era registry created after 9/11 to track men from predominantly Muslim countries who were not U.S. citizens. The registry, known as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), was shown to be ineffective and had not been used for years.  Nonetheless, the NSEERS structure remained intact. NSEERS will be dismantled through a published regulation in the Federal Register.

One of the most controversial immigration programs implemented in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, NSEERS, consisted of a series of controls designed to collect information, fingerprints, and photographs of certain non-citizens entering and living in the United States, and to monitor their status and movement once within the country’s borders. From its inception, it was determined that NSEERS would only target male non-citizens of a certain age from predesignated countries.  The 25 countries whose citizens were designated for participation in NSEERS were: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

The program drew criticism from various civil and human-rights groups, members of Congress, and at least one committee of the United Nations. Specifically, NSEERS was censured for its focus primarily on nationals of Muslim-majority countries, its alleged inability to identify terrorist threats, and the strict legal and immigration consequences put in place for participant noncompliance.

Though the “special registration” portion of the program, which required non-citizens from the selected countries who were already present in the United States to report for questioning before immigration officials, was suspended at the end of 2003, other portions of the program remained in effect. The recent announcement by DHS has effectively ended the program in its entirety.

Ending NSEERS cannot prevent the Trump Administration from following through on its threats to create a religious registry; however, it does stop the next Administration from using the NSEERS framework without publishing a new regulation.

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