A central part of the government’s toolkit of counter-terrorism measures is the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS. The program singles out men and boys from designated countries for extraordinary registration requirements with DHS, ranging from an extra half-hour of screening on arrival, through the tracking of whereabouts while in the United States, to limitations on points of departure.
By all accounts the program was a total failure. It was soundly condemned by the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination because it mandated ethnic and racial profiling on a scale unheard of since the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and “Operation Wetback” deportations of Mexicans in 1954. Former Immigration and Naturalization Service (IRS) denounced the program as a “disruption in our relationships with immigrant communities and countries that we needed help from” after 9/11 and that it took resources away from other, more suitable programs.
Perhaps most damning of all is that a program designed to prevent terrorist attacks resulted in a terrorism conviction record of zero for 93,000.
Getting rid of the NSEERS program is a critical first step in repairing the damage of our misdirected immigration policy in the wake of 9/11. But it does little to remedy the harm that resulted from the wrongful deportations and denial of benefits that came to define the program. And considering the fact that NSEERS was only one piece of an entire puzzle of dysfunctional foreign and immigration policy, there is a lot to remedy.
President Obama campaigned on promises of taking this country out of the constitutional darkness that defined the Bush years, and so far those promises have been largely unfulfilled. But the elimination of NSEERS is a move in the right direction.
photo courtesy of Jeda Villa Bali via Flickr