On Wednesday, President-elect Trump refused to back down from his plans for a Muslim registry, telling press, “You know my plans.”
But, that task just got a little more complicated. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has just announced that he will dismantle the regulatory framework for the discredited National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). The Bush Administration established the NSEERS program in 2002 to force men and boys aged 16 and over from 25 countries (all but one are Muslim-majority) to register with ICE.
The program lasted for a decade, during which over 80,000 men and boys were forced to register, and 13,000 of them ended up in deportation proceedings. But the program is not credited with a single terrorist conviction. In 2011, President Obama effectively ended the program by taking all 25 countries off the NSEERS list. But he left the regulatory framework intact.
Advocacy groups have been demanding that the Obama administration rescind the regulations since the election, so that the Trump Administration would not be able to re-lauch the program immediately.
Both the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and the Defending Dissent Foundation have opposed NSEERS since its inception. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee led an effort on behalf of over 200 organizations, calling on the Obama administration to end the program. The letter, which was delivered in late November, was followed by vigorous advocacy efforts by a large coalition of community organizations, including allies from the Arab, Muslim, and South Asian communities. Resources were leveraged to build a strong diverse coalition to exert pressure that ultimately led to the dismantling of the NSEERS framework.
ADC Legal & Policy Director Abed Ayoub states, “This is the right decision by Secretary Johnson. We commend him, and the White House, for letting it be known that such registry programs are futile and have no place in our country. However the community cannot be at ease; the next administration has indicated that they will consider implementing similar programs. We will work twice as hard to protect our community and ensure such programs do not come to fruition.”
While this move is helpful, it does nothing to block the Trump administration from establishing a Muslim registry, or worse. Many of the men Trump has nominated or appointed to cabinet and advisory positions are noted Islamophobes, and Trump has expressed interest in increasing surveillance on Muslim communities. There is nothing to prevent the FBI from continueing send undercover agents and paid informants to infiltrate Mosques and Muslim community groups to entrap vulnerable people, or coerce people into becoming informants.