The End of NSEERS
By H. Glenn Fogle, Jr, Esq.
The week before Christmas, President Obama ordered the Department of Homeland Security to finally terminate the shuttered “Muslim” registration program known as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). Though not “specifically” directed at Muslims (as that would clearly be unconstitutional), NSEERS required males over 16 years of age from 25 predominantly Muslim countries (excepting North Korea) to register with the government—whether they were already here or upon entry. The program, developed in 2002 was basically abandoned at the end of 2003, although it was not officially suspended until 2011, due to the fact that it was essentially a failure—an inefficient waste of money and resources.
For instance, The Fogle Law Firm, LLC, which has represented hundreds of asylum-seekers, had many clients from the country of Indonesia who were Christian and primarily of Chinese ancestry/ethnicity. These Indonesian Christians were seeking asylum in the United States because of persecution from the Muslim majority Indonesian (the country with the largest Muslim population in the world). Another group of ethnic Chinese Indonesians who were Buddhists were also seeking asylum in part for the same reason. The Indonesians of Chinese ethnicity had also been historically persecuted by native Indonesian population due to their ethnicity. In fact, in 1998 native Indonesians rioted killing over 1000 ethnic Chinese, as well as mass attacks and raping of ethnic Chinese women as well as looting and destroying ethnic Chinese businesses. Therefore, aside from the religious persecution of the non-Muslim Indonesian citizens (the government identification card even required listing of religion) there was also an ethnic based persecution of Indonesian citizens of Chinese descent.
The NSEERS program, devised by none other than Donald Trump’s “immigration advisor,” Kris Kobach, required non-Muslims from countries like Indonesia to register with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under the pretext of monitoring all Muslim men in the United States who were assumed to be potential terrorists. This is simply one example. There are many other examples such as: Christian converts and members of the Baha’i faith from Iran; Christians from Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon; minority Muslim sects who are persecuted in their various home countries and refugees from Muslim countries with external and external conflicts. Moreover, although the registration for men over 16 was compulsory, the men had to voluntarily go to DHS and register. Obviously, the “bad Muslims” who were seeking to do harm to the United States, would not voluntarily go to DHS and register their presence under the NSEERS program. The fact is that this program did not result in the arrest of one single “terrorist,” though it did result in over 13,000 people being placed in removal (deportation) proceedings for various reasons–primarily for visa violations.
Although the mandatory reporting requirement of the program was suspended at the end of 2003, the actual NSEERS program was indefinitely suspended in April 2011. However, the records and framework of the program was still in existence until it was canceled on December 22, 2016. The architect of the program, Kris Kobach, was photographed outside the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse on November 20, 2016 with an exposed file containing immigration proposals including the revival of his failed program, which did not catch a single terrorist, to track Muslims. Thus, it appears that the Trump administration will try to embark on an already failed program, which alienates and demonizes the Muslim community as well as Muslim countries whose cooperation against radical Islamic terrorism is vital in the fight against this menace.
Another somewhat senseless proposal from the Trump camp has been “extreme vetting” (what Trump’s unconstitutional “Muslim ban” has morphed into), where visa applicants who are Muslim would be asked whether they believed in various American values, such as democracy, equality, freedom of religion, LGBT rights, etc. Again, it seems preposterous that a would-be terrorist would admit to not believing in “American values” on the visa application or to a consular officer. Moreover, the “extreme vetting” process would add an almost insurmountable burden on the already overworked foreign service Corps of the State Department and other various law enforcement agencies involved in the screening process, which would undoubtedly result in an enormous backlog of visa applications for visitors and immigrants coming to the United States. This would stifle family immigration, foreign investment, foreign students, foreign professors and educators and skilled workers—even from European countries and close US allies—preventing the inflow of the human and monetary capital necessary for the continued growth and support of the United States economy.
The Islamic community in the United States and around the world knows itself better than anyone else. Therefore, cooperation, collaboration and friendship with the Muslim community rather than alienation and rejection would clearly be the best way to identify and combat potential terrorists originating from that group. NSEERS completely failed in its mission and similarly intellectually unsound, blanket proposals targeting Muslims such as “extreme vetting” will also fail and ultimately harm the American economy and our place in the world. Kudos to the Obama administration for finally ending NSEERS.