Registry Used to Track Arabs and Muslims Dismantled by Obama Administration
By Ed Pilkington
The Obama administration is dismantling a discriminatory surveillance system that was used after 9/11 to keep tabs on Arabs and Muslims across the US, in a move that will make it more difficult for president-elect Donald Trump to achieve his goal of introducing a Muslim registry.
Anannouncement by the Department of Homeland Security that it is tearing down the remnants of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (Nseers) marks the most audacious attempt yet by Barack Obama to place roadblocks in the way of his successor’s declared intentions. A key element of Trump’s bid for the White House was his threat to prevent non-citizen Muslims from entering the US and to keep them under surveillance once inside the country.
The Nseers program was one of the most contentious – and widely hated – elements of the Bush administration’s anti-terror policies in the wake of 9/11. More than 80,000 people from 25 listed countries, 24 of which had majority Muslim or Arab populations, were forced onto the scheme in which they were required to provide fingerprints and a photograph and periodically present themselves for in-person interviews with DHS officers.
About 14,000 of those individuals were placed into deportation proceedings. Yet not a single individual was found to have any links to terrorist or violent activities.
Mohammad JafarAlam, a member of South Asian social justice group Desis Rising Up and Moving (Drum) that was at the forefront of the campaign to dismantle Nseers, was one of those who endured Nseers surveillance. He said he knew from personal experience what it did to individuals and their families.
“The extreme mental, emotional distress, the financial problems, the pressures on a family and the isolation that happens is a punishment not just for one person, but everyone involved.”
Joanne Lin, legislative counsel with the ACLU, which was also at the front line of opposition to Nseers, said it was a “completely failed counterterrorism program. Out of 80,000 men who registered for it, there was not a single terrorism conviction, yet it alienated Muslim and South Asian communities across the country. So we are very pleased that the Obama administration has moved to end it.”
Obama had come under intense lobbying in recent days from human rights and Muslim American groups to do something about the Nseers system. Though the current president has generally acted cautiously in avoiding any impression that he wants to foil Trump’s policies, his move to unpick the surveillance scheme is a sign of how opposed he is to his successor’s threats to put Muslims under the governmental spotlight… The Guardian