SAN Welcomes Suspension of “Special Registration” Requirements
On Thursday, April 28, 2011, the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) registration requirements process, also known as “Special Registration,” was suspended. Implemented by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2002, Special Registration was a counter-productive response to September 11, 2001. From the very start, South Asian Network (SAN) opposed the program, which served to split apart thousands families and break apart South Asian communities across the US through detention and deportation.
Special Registration required boys and men, ages 16 to 45 from a list of 25 countries with large Muslim populations to register at immigration offices or ports of entry. As a result, 84,000 males were fingerprinted, photographed, and questioned in long interviews based on their countries of origin; more than 13,000 were put into deportation proceedings; and 2,800 were detained. While the requirements to register based on a particular religion or nationality have now been removed, NSEERS as a regulation will remain in place.
SAN organized several townhalls, legal clinics and provided support and guidance in Southern California to assist those appearing for interviews and to track outcome of those allowed to exit. Through this process, SAN collected nearly 700 intakes in the initial four-month period and analyzed them for a recent human rights report, From Displacement to Internment. In Los Angeles, Bangladeshi and Pakistani men represented 60 percent of those registering.
SAN welcomes this partial victory as the ten-year anniversary of September 11, 2001 nears. SAN’s Executive Director, Manjusha Kulkarni stated, “Similar to the history of Chinese exclusion acts, Japanese internment and Mexican deportations, Special Registration profiles an exclusive group of people based on national origin and religion. SAN has been advocating that NSEERS and similar post-9/11 and discriminatory enforcement policies end.”
Sumana Tumpa, a SAN youth group member and Bangladeshi resident in Koreatown remembers the effect that Special Registration had in Los Angeles: “My older brothers and uncles had to go in for Special Registration and were fearful of what would happen in interviews at the Federal Building. People in the community were not sure if those going in would come out.”
SAN Policy Organizer Tamia Pervez notes, “This is a great step forward, yet many community members have been adversely impacted by detentions, deportations and onerous registration requirements. People continue to be denied status adjustment because of improper application of the policy. SAN hopes that DHS can grant retroactive relief for these community members.”
SAN is concerned that even though NSEERS is suspended, the policy remains on the books and can be renewed in the future. While recognizing the importance of the policy’s suspension, SAN continues to call for a reexamination of ineffective immigration enforcement strategies, so that policies like NSEERS get repealed in their entirety.
South Asian Network is a grassroots, community-based organization dedicated to advancing the health, empowerment and solidarity of persons of South Asian descent. SAN is based in Artesia, the heart of “Little India,” in Los Angeles County.