The National Security Entry-Exit Regulation System, or NSEERS, was implemented by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to combat terrorism after 9/11. In order to enter the United States, visitors from 25 different nations, mainly from countries with majority Muslim populations, had to register with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and provide detailed personal information. NSEERS leads to enhanced monitoring, scrutiny and surveillance, and directly targets Muslim communities in the United States. Many Muslims were imprisoned and even deported if they failed to comply with registration rules or provided insufficient information to USCIS. In April 2011, the Obama administration “indefinitely suspended” the program. But since NSEERS is still on the books, it can be resurrected. Since 9/11, NSEERS has inspired fear and apprehension among Muslims. Misuse of data by officials and strict monitoring of visitors led to massive racial and ethnic profiling, while stringent regulations have needlessly separated families. According to a report published by the Rights Working Group:
To this day, many families are separated geographically because a male family member was deported to his country of origin after attempting to comply with NSEERS, even if he did not have any relatives or contacts in that country. In April 2011, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the 25 NSEERS countries would be delisted and nonimmigrants from those countries would no longer need to comply with the program. Although DHS framed this policy shift as having “ended” NSEERS, the delisting of the specific countries through the April 2011 Rule did not eliminate the program’s underlying infrastructure. Individuals continue to face harsh immigration consequences resulting from the program, including deportation and the denial of immigration benefits for which they are otherwise eligible.
On June 1, 2012, a number of civil liberties organizations, including the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, sent a coalition letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, urging DHS to permanently dismantle NSEERS:
Specifically, we are disappointed that it retains the program’s regulatory framework; fails to provide redress for all individuals who continue to face adverse immigration consequences as a result of the program; and lacks information regarding the status of databases created under the program. We urge DHS, in consultation with individuals and organizations with expertise on NSEERS, to issue and implement regulations that terminate the program in its entirety; remove residual penalties associated with NSEERS for all affected individuals; and discontinue the use of data collected through NSEERS by DHS and other law enforcement agencies.
More than a decade after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Muslims in the United States feel victimized and constantly subject to arbitrary racial profiling and discrimination. It is high time the Department of Homeland Security knocks down the NSEERS program entirely, and implements measures to discontinue the use of data collected through the program.