National Security Entry-Exit Registration System
The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) or INS Special Registration was a system for registering certain non-citizens within the United States, initiated in September 2002 as part of the War on Terrorism. Portions were suspended as of April 27, 2011, and the entirety of the regulation was removed on December 23, 2016.
This system had two separate components: port-of-entry registration and domestic registration. In each case, those who registered were fingerprinted, photographed, and interviewed. They were required to provide detailed information about their plans and to update Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) if their plans change. They were only permitted to enter and depart the U.S. through designated ports of entry. On December 22, 2016 the Obama administration announced that it would dismantle the NSEERS regulatory framework, which would essentially cancel the program.
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The Bush administration started the program in September 2002. A goal of the program was to increase screening of travelers from specific countries. Because a majority of these countries were predominantly Muslim cultures, the American Civil Liberties Union said the program unjustly targeted individuals based on religion.
In January 2003, Mark Corallo, then a Justice Department spokesman, said NSEERS helped law enforcement authorities apprehend 330 "known criminals" and three "known terrorists”; Corallo made these remarks in order to advocate for renewed funding for the program, for which the Bush administration was requesting $16.8 million per fiscal year. However, by 1 December 2016, "[n]o known terrorism convictions resulted from the program," according to a letter from some Democratic Members of Congress and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. By January 2003, at least 138,000 individuals were registered in NSEERS, according to testimony by the Department of Homeland Security to Congress. As of May 2003, 82,581 individuals had complied with the domestic portion of the program. Of these, at least 13,153 were placed in deportation proceedings. Although the program originally included a requirement to re-register annually, the Department of Homeland Security, which gained jurisdiction over the program, eliminated this requirement.
Immigrant rights advocates such as Rabia Chaudry criticized the program, particularly the domestic portion of it, for profiling on the basis of ethnicity and religion as well as generally undermining immigrants' rights. They noted that 24 of the 25 countries included on the list are predominantly Muslim, while all of the countries are in Asia or Africa. As the ACLU noted, the program was ineffective due to it producing no terrorism-related convictions in the 93,000 cases it created. Given the large numbers involved and the nature of the requirements, they argued, it was unlikely to find any members of Al Qaeda. NSEERS was probed in the documentary film "Aliens Among Us" by Martina Radwan, for the effect it had on immigrant families of Arab origin.
The system was discontinued in 2011 under the Obama administration, whereupon the Department of Homeland Security said that the registration system had become outdated in the wake of new technology.
NSEERS was indefinitely suspended as of April 27, 2011, when the US-VISIT program was instituted as its replacement. The Department of Homeland Security website says, "Because the Secretary of Homeland Security’s authority under the NSEERS regulations is broader than the manual information flow based on country designation that has now ended, the underlying NSEERS regulation will remain in place in the event a special registration program is again needed."
On November 22, 2016 the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee submitted a letter co-signed by nearly 200 organizations to President Barack Obama, calling on his administration to rescind the regulatory framework behind the NSEERS. The letter was submitted on behalf of nearly 200 civil and human rights, civil liberties, education, social justice, and inter-faith organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Leadership Conference on Civil Human Rights, American Immigration Council, Center for American Progress, National Council of La Raza, the National Immigration Forum, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. The letter reads in part, “As organizations that represent diverse communities and that are committed to civil and immigrant rights, we firmly believe that removal of the NSEERS framework is a necessary imperative. We ask the Administration to immediately take steps to remove the regulatory structure of NSEERS and stop any future use of the program.”
The registration system was ordered to be removed near the end of the President Obama's second term 2016. The removal order occurred after New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wrote, "We can't risk giving President-elect Trump the tools to create an unconstitutional religious registry." However, because the order occurred within the last 60 days of a President's term, if it is a "major regulation," (major social policy significance or cost of more than $100 million) it is subject to Congressional review (see Midnight regulations), and may be voided by an act such as the proposed Midnight Rules Relief Act, which has already passed the House of Representatives. Trump's advisers had suggested keeping the system to track immigrants.; the Obama administration's order to remove the system indicates the program was redundant because it called for manual collection of data that is now captured automatically.
Port-of-entry registration was required for nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Syria (including those that were born in these countries but have a passport from a different country), in addition to any other non-citizen, non-permanent residents determined in advance by the United States Department of State or the INS, or as they enter the country by INS inspectors. (According to the September 2002 notice signed by Attorney General John Ashcroft announcing the update to special registration in the Federal Register, some form of special registration was already in effect for the above countries as early as 1998.) The new system began on September 11, 2002.
Certain non-citizens who were in the United States on or prior to September 10, 2002, were required to register in person at an INS office. This procedure was required of males over the age of sixteen who entered the United States legally on particular types of visa (primarily student, work, and tourist) from certain countries. Countries were named on four occasions:
- Group 1: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan or Syria
- Group 2: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen
- Group 3: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia
- Group 4: Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait
The deadlines for registration were December 16, 2002 (Group 1), January 10, 2003 (Group 2), February 21, 2003 (Group 3), March 28, 2003 (Group 4). The deadlines for Group 1 and 2 registration were later extended until February 7, 2003. The deadlines for Groups 3 and 4 were extended to March 21, 2003 and April 25, 2003.
- "NSEERS". U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. Archived from the original on May 10, 2009.
- "Special Registration". Immigration and Naturalization Service (an Agency of the U.S. Department of Justice). September 23, 2002. Archived from the original on October 8, 2002. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- "Removal of Regulations Relating to Special Registration Process for Certain Nonimmigrants". Federal Register. 23 December 2016.
- Hellmann, Jessee, Obama gets rid of visitor registry before Trump takes over, The Hill, December 22, 2016
- 67 FR 57032
- 67 FR 61352
- Murphy, Laura W. (8 May 2003). "WAR ON TERRORISM: IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT SINCE SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 HEARING\PREPARED STATEMENT OF LAURA W. MURPHY, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION". Committee on the Judiciary. p. 78. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
Voluntary Interviews of Arab and Muslim Males. The Department of Justice has implemented a program to question, without any particularized suspicion, thousands of Arab and Muslim men in an allegedly voluntary but, in reality, highly coercive manner. A memorandum giving guidance on how to conduct interviews instructed the interviewers to ask about sensitive, First Amendment protected activities such as religious practice, mosque attendance, and the interviewee's feelings towards the United States government. In addition, interviewers were instructed to ask questions designed to elicit information without any relevance to terrorism but which was relevant to immigration status, and to refer any person who agreed to a voluntary interview to the INS if there was an immigration status violation. This policy resulted in a number of immigration status arrests, which are virtually certain to lead all immigrants to hesitate, for fear of deportation, before sharing possibly vital information concerning terrorism with the federal government.
- Walsh, Edward (25 January 2003). "Senate Votes to Halt INS Registration Program". Washington Post (Final ed.). Washington, D.C. p. A11.
Mark Corallo, a Justice Department spokesman, said yesterday that the Bush administration will work to keep NSEERS in place. "We are committed to the National Security Exit-Entry Registration System, which has already proven to have been a success in apprehending persons who would have presented a severe risk to the American people," Corallo said. He said the system has allowed law enforcement authorities to apprehend 330 "known criminals" and three "known terrorists.”…The amendment [was] to restore $ 165 million for the larger tracking system…The Bush administration had requested $ 16.8 million to fund the program for the current fiscal year.
- Goodman, J. David; Nixon, Ron (22 December 2016). "Obama to Dismantle Visitor Registry Before Trump Can Revive It". New York Times.
- Conyers, Jr., John; Lofgren, Zoe (1 December 2016). "Letter TO: President Barack Obama; CC: Secretary Jeh Johnson" (PDF). Retrieved 16 January 2016.
- SUBCOMMITTEE ON IMMIGRATION, BORDER SECURITY, AND CLAIMS OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES (8 May 2003). "WAR ON TERRORISM: IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT SINCE SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 HEARING\STATEMENT OF MICHAEL DOUGHERTY, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, BUREAU OF IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY". Committee on the Judiciary. p. 29. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
After 9/11, the Justice Department began the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS, an initiative to close this loophole. Since the implementation of NSEERS in September 2002, more than 138,000 aliens from over 151 countries have been registered. NSEERS has resulted in the identification of 11 aliens linked to terrorism, the arrests of more than 120 criminal aliens and the issuance of more than 12,000 charging documents placing deportable aliens in deportation proceedings. This program is now run in DHS. It has received unfair criticism that we will put to rest today.
- 68 FR 67577
- "DHS Issues a Fact Sheet, FAQs, and Press Release on Changes to the NSEERS Program". American Immigration Lawyers Association. December 1, 2003. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- Pilkington, Ed (22 December 2016). "Registry used to track Arabs and Muslims dismantled by Obama administration". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
- Rickerd, Chris. "Homeland Security Suspends Ineffective, Discriminatory Immigration Program". Article.
- Radwan, Martina. "Aliens Among Us". Documentary.
- Office of the Secretary, DHS (28 April 2011). "76 FR 23830". Federal Register. pp. 23830–23831. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
- "DHS Removes Designated Countries from NSEERS Registration (May 2011)". Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
- "ADC — ADC and 200 Organizations Demand End to NSEERS". Retrieved 23 December 2016.
- Department of Homeland Security (28 April 2011). "81 FR 94231". Federal Register. pp. 94231–942342. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
- Liptak, Kevin; Peled, Shachar (December 22, 2016). "Obama administration ending program once used to track mostly Arab and Muslim men". CNN.
- "H.R.4612 - Midnight Rule Relief Act of 2016".
- Lecher, Colin (December 22, 2016). "Obama ending program that tracked Muslim travelers before Trump can use it". The Verge. Archived from the original on December 22, 2016. Retrieved December 22, 2016.
- Department of Homeland Security (28 April 2011). "81 FR 94231". Federal Register. pp. 94231–942342. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is removing outdated regulations relating to an obsolete special registration program for certain non-immigrants. 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.
- "Obama to Dismantle Visitor Registry Before Trump Can Revive It". The New York Times. 22 December 2016. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
- "Public Information, Special Registration". United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Archived from the original on June 19, 2006. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- "Special Registration Your Portal to Information on Special Registration Procedures for Certain Nonimmigrants". Immigration and Naturalization Services (an agency of the United States Department of Justice). February 3, 2003. Archived from the original on February 10, 2003. Retrieved February 17, 2003.
- "Your Portal to Information on Special Registration Procedures for Certain Nonimmigrants". Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services of the Department of Homeland Security. March 11, 2003. Archived from the original on April 2, 2003. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund Special Registration Report
- "Gore in Jeddah", an essay by Said Shirazi about the Arab Round-Up of 2002-2003.
- 'Special Registration' Program from migrationpolicy.org