The Obama Administration formally announced Thursday that it is going to scrap a registry which focused on immigrant men from predominantly Muslim countries. The move comes amid fear and speculation that the incoming Trump administration might try to renew it.
The program was halted back in 2011 by the U.S.
The program National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) was originally launched a year after the 9/11 incident. The program required immigrants – boys and men – coming from Muslim countries (especially Middle East), and also North Korea to register with the federal government upon arrival in the U.S. This included their photographs, fingerprints, and an obligation to notify the government in case of an address change.
The program was suspended by Obama in 2011, and officially announcing the abolition, Department of Homeland Security put out a notice on Thursday.
The notice stated:
“DHS ceased use of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) program in 2011 after finding that the program was redundant, captured data manually that was already captured through automated systems, and no longer provided an increase in security in light of DHS’s evolving assessment of the threat posed to the United States by international terrorism. The regulatory structure pertaining to NSEERS no longer provides a discernable public benefit as the program has been rendered obsolete. Accordingly, DHS is removing the special registration program regulations.”
The notice comes at a time when fear of international terror is growing, and Trump has also hinted a possible ban on some Muslim immigrants. On asked whether the latest Berlin Christmas market attack which killed 12 would cause him to reevaluate a Muslim registry scheme or proposed ban, he said that “You know my plans. All along, I’ve been proven to be right, 100 percent correct.”
The program had been sharply criticized by civil libertarians who took it as an attempt to profile people based on their religion and race. The rise in international terror attacks made Republicans take a stronger stance on immigration, and Trump even hinted a blanket ban on Muslims, although he later softened his stance and said that he would just temporarily ban Muslims from certain (unspecified) areas which have ties to terrorism.
Although many Trump aides have signaled that the program will not be restored by Trump, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said last month that Trump should renew the DHS database. He serves as an immigration adviser to Trump and had a meeting with Trump in which he presented a strategic plan for a year, which listed NSEERS’ revival a top priority. The plan suggested that U.S. should “reintroduce” the program for immigrants coming from “high risk” areas.
Trump’s spokesman, Jason Miller, reiterated that Trump was firm on his plan to suspend people from entering U.S. who’re coming “from countries with high terrorism rates.”
When the program was abandoned in 2011, Obama administration said that a new biometric system would replace NSEERS which would be sufficient to maintain an immigrant database. 80,000 foreigners were registered until 2011 in the program.