Rights Groups Continue to Call for Dismantling of NSEERS and Criticize Department of Homeland Security’s Refusal to Repudiate This Discriminatory Program and Provide Relief to Those Unjustly Profiled

Rights Groups Con­tin­ue to Call for Dis­man­tling of NSEERS and Crit­i­cize Depart­ment of Home­land Security’s Refusal to Repu­di­ate This Dis­crim­i­na­to­ry Pro­gram and Pro­vide Relief to Those Unjust­ly Pro­filed | PDF

For imme­di­ate release:
May 7, 2012

Wash­ing­ton, D.C. – South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) joins the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union (ACLU), Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Islam­ic Rela­tions (CAIR), Nation­al Net­work for Arab Amer­i­can Com­mu­ni­ties (NNAAC), Rights Work­ing Group, and The Sikh Coali­tion in express­ing seri­ous dis­ap­point­ment regard­ing the Oba­ma administration’s announce­ment last month that it will not ful­ly ter­mi­nate the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Entry-Exit Reg­is­tra­tion Sys­tem (NSEERS), which, in the after­math of Sep­tem­ber 11th, required cer­tain non­im­mi­grant men from pre­dom­i­nant­ly Mus­lim nations to reg­is­ter with the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. In addi­tion, the admin­is­tra­tion has indi­cat­ed that it will not pro­vide redress to all peo­ple impact­ed by the dis­crim­i­na­to­ry pro­gram.

Last month, the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty (DHS) issued a mem­o­ran­dum about indi­vid­u­als impact­ed by the noto­ri­ous NSEERS pro­gram. NSEERS was a coun­ter­pro­duc­tive response to Sep­tem­ber 11th requir­ing cer­tain non-immi­grants to reg­is­ter at ports of entry and local immi­gra­tion offices. Those required to reg­is­ter were from pre­dom­i­nant­ly Arab, South Asian, or Mus­lim coun­tries. The specifics of NSEERS revealed it to be a clear exam­ple of dis­crim­i­na­to­ry and arbi­trary pro­fil­ing. The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion has itself found that NSEERS “does not pro­vide any increase in secu­ri­ty.” DHS’ own Office of Inspec­tor Gen­er­al has called for the full ter­mi­na­tion of NSEERS. In April 2011, DHS mod­i­fied the pro­gram by “delist­ing” the coun­tries whose nation­als were sub­ject to reg­is­tra­tion require­ments, yet indi­vid­u­als still face harsh immi­gra­tion con­se­quences result­ing from the pro­gram, includ­ing depor­ta­tion and denial of immi­gra­tion ben­e­fits for which they are oth­er­wise eli­gi­ble.

The administration’s most recent announce­ment on NSEERS did not ful­ly ter­mi­nate and dis­man­tle the pro­gram. Instead, DHS offers lim­it­ed relief to some indi­vid­u­als neg­a­tive­ly impact­ed by this dis­crim­i­na­to­ry pro­gram. Favor­able con­sid­er­a­tion is lim­it­ed to nar­row cir­cum­stances, such as indi­vid­u­als who could not com­ply with the pro­gram because they received inac­cu­rate infor­ma­tion from the gov­ern­ment or those who were hos­pi­tal­ized. The mem­o­ran­dum does not address relief for the many indi­vid­u­als who com­plied with the pro­gram but were found to lack immi­gra­tion sta­tus nor those who were deport­ed through secret pro­ceed­ings that took place with­out due process of law.

“While the ini­tial mea­sures out­lined in this pol­i­cy could poten­tial­ly ben­e­fit a sub­set of indi­vid­u­als affect­ed by NSEERS, it does not go near­ly far enough. Despite the advo­ca­cy community’s years of engage­ment with DHS on NSEERS, the new announce­ment reveals the administration’s fail­ure to grasp the wide­spread fear this pro­gram caused in South Asian, Arab, Mid­dle East­ern and Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties in Amer­i­ca and how NSEERS has torn fam­i­lies apart,” stat­ed Deepa Iyer, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT).

“The recent issuance of the NSEERS memo by DHS miss­es the mark and fails to pro­vide redress to all indi­vid­u­als who have been harmed by NSEERS,” stat­ed Mar­garet Huang, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Rights Work­ing Group. “Fur­ther, the announce­ment leaves the pro­gram intact and states that infor­ma­tion obtained through the dis­crim­i­na­to­ry NSEERS pro­gram can con­tin­ue to be used against indi­vid­u­als. The admin­is­tra­tion, yet again, has failed to address uncon­sti­tu­tion­al pro­fil­ing based on race, reli­gion, eth­nic­i­ty and nation­al ori­gin,” con­tin­ued Huang.

The mem­o­ran­dum does not direct­ly grant relief or ben­e­fits to indi­vid­u­als impact­ed by NSEERS but rather asks DHS agen­cies to devel­op guid­ance to imple­ment the mem­o­ran­dum. The groups call on DHS to engage with advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tions in devel­op­ing this guid­ance to ensure that it grants mean­ing­ful relief. The groups also urge DHS to dis­man­tle NSEERS com­plete­ly and dis­con­tin­ue using infor­ma­tion obtained through the pro­gram.