Photo by fazen/Flickr (Creative Commons)
Last spring, Homeland Security announced that it was officially ending what was perhaps the most controversial immigration-national security program implemented in the immediate wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS, focused on non-citizen men from 25 Muslim-majority countries with the goal of collecting their fingerprints, photographs, and monitoring their whereabouts.
In the beginning, those who met the criteria had to participate in a "special registration" that required reporting to immigration officials for questioning, some having to travel long distances to do so. This provision was suspended in 2003 amid much public and political criticism. But of the 83,519 men interviewed under special registration between September 2002 and September 2003, according to Homeland Security statistics, 13,799 landed in deportation proceedings.
Photo by Timothy Valentine/Flickr (Creative Commons)
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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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.