Obama Scraps National Security Program to Screen Visitors From Middle Eastern Countries

By Susan Jones | December 22, 2016 | 11:54am EST
The Obama administration has ended a dormant national security program launched under President George W. Bush to track men coming to the United States from mostly Middle Eastern countries. (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The American Civil Liberties Union hailed President Obama on Thursday for scrapping the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), a Bush-era program used to screen and track certain individuals coming to the United States from mostly Middle Eastern countries where al Qaida was present.

The program was launched on Sept. 11, 2002, a year after the 9-11 attacks, and although it was suspended in 2011 by the Obama administration, some groups have warned that incoming President Donald Trump could reactivate it as a "Muslim registry."

Under NSEERS, male foreign visitors over the age of 16, either arriving or staying in the U.S. from certain designated countries (most of them Muslim-majority countries) were required to register at immigration offices upon arrival in the United States.

They were fingerprinted, photographed, and interviewed under oath, and they also were required to notify the Immigration and Naturalization Service within ten days of any changes in address, employment, or school while in the United States. The program also included exit controls, to help the immigration service remove aliens who overstayed their visas.

Joanne Lin, the ACLU's senior legislative counsel, described the overall NSEERS program as "a completely failed counter-terrorism tool and massive profiling program that didn’t yield a single terrorism conviction in nearly a decade."

By ending NSEERS "for good," Lin added, "the U.S. is on the right path to protect Muslim and Arab immigrants from discrimination.”

President-elect Trump has called for heightened scrutiny of Muslims coming to the United States from countries such as Syria, but he has never specifically mentioned NSEERS.

After a terrorist rammed a stolen truck into a Christmas market in Berlin this week, killing 12 people,Trump told reporters, "You know my plans."

Last month, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Trump immigration adviser during the campaign, said Trump should renew the program.

According to the Associated Press, the administration will publish its decision to scrap NSEERS in the Federal Register on Friday.

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