How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

The end of NSEERS, one of the most contentious post-9/11 national security programs

Photo by Timothy Valentine/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The Migration Policy Institute has published a brief history and analysis of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, known as NSEERS, which was terminated in recent weeks by Homeland Security.

Implemented after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, it was one of the most controversial national security programs established during that time. The idea was to collect information, fingerprints, and photographs of certain individuals entering and living in the United States, and to monitor their whereabouts. Its primary focus was on men from Muslim-majority countries.

Most contested by its critics was a "special registration" provision that required non-citizens already present in the United States to report to immigration officials for questioning. While this portion of NSEERS was suspended at the end of 2003, the rest of the program remained in effect until its termination was announced at end of April. From the MPI paper:

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Immigration and the bin Laden effect: More on the changes since 9/11

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A post on Monday outlined a few of the direct and indirect ways in which the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks orchestrated by Osama bin Laden changed the nation's immigration landscape. Legislative reaction to the attacks propelled legal and policy changes that led to tightened borders and beefed up immigration enforcement as national security took center stage. Among these changes was the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in early 2003.

In the days since, there have been other takes on immigration and the bin Laden effect. Today in a post in ColorLines, Seth Freed Wessler wrote about DHS's National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS, a program whose recent end has been applauded by Muslim groups:

Muslims in the U.S. became the most ominous threat, by policy. The Department of Homeland Security created the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), commonly called “Special Registration,” which functioned as a deportation net specifically for Muslims. As Colorlines’ Channing Kennedy wrote in April:

Initiated in September 2002, NSEERS functioned like Arizona’s SB 1070, with working-class Muslims as the target. Its first phase required all non-citizen male residents, ages 16 to 65, from a list of “suspect” nations, to register at INS offices. Thousands of families went out of their way to comply with the law, thinking it would be part of the government-sponsored pathways to citizenship that they were already participating in. Instead, in July 2003, the Washington Post reported it as the deportation of “the largest number of visitors from Middle Eastern and other Muslim countries in U.S. history—more than 13,000 of the nearly 83,000 men older than 16 who complied with the registration program by various deadlines between last September and April.”

Last week, the federal government officially ended the NSEERS program.

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Five ways in which Osama bin Laden changed the immigration landscape

Photo by Romel Jacinto/Flickr (Creative Commons)


The direct and indirect repercussions that the late Osama bin Laden's actions in masterminding the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 have had on the agencies, policies and attitudes affecting immigrants in the United States are far too many to mention in a short list. The attacks led to the dissolution of the federal immigration infrastructure at the time, to several legislative and policy changes, and to an increasingly enforcement-heavy and divisive immigration climate.

Here are a few of the major changes:

1) The end of INS, the beginning of DHS: Criticism of the decades-old Immigration and Naturalization Service, after it it was discovered that some of the 9/11 hijackers were here on visas that shouldn't have been granted, led to the end of the INS in early 2003. The agency, which at the time governed all immigration functions from visas to border security, was replaced by the much broader Department of Homeland Security. Three sub-agencies within DHS were given authority over immigration matters: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (overseeing customs and border security, including the U.S. Border Patrol); U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, overseeing functions such as naturalization and the granting of legal residency; and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, which is responsible for immigration enforcement in the United States, oversees immigrant detention and deportation, and is responsible for enforcement policies such as Secure Communities and 287(g).

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