U.S. Muslims applaud end of registration program
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today applauded the Bush administration’s decision to end a visitor registration program that primarily targeted Muslim men and drew complaints from minority and civil liberties groups. CAIR also said any new visitor screening system should be free of religious or racial bias.
The Washington-based Islamic civil rights and advocacy group’s statement came following an announcement made this morning by the Department of Homeland Security eliminating the National Security Entry Exit Registration System, or NSEERS. A new system will focus on individuals instead of on “broad categories” of people. Those who were subject to NSEERS must still register as they enter or leave the country.
In a statement, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad said: “Today’s announcement will no doubt bring relief to thousands of people who are anxious about being singled out and discriminated against when visiting the United States. We appreciate the government’s decision to eliminate the special registration program, which has done little to promote security and has alienated thousands of law-abiding visitors to our nation. Any new screening procedures should not be based on religion, ethnicity or national origin, but instead reflect the American values of equal justice and religious freedom.”
In December of last year, CAIR, along with several other civil rights groups, filed a lawsuit asserting that immigration authorities unlawfully arrested large numbers of people in Los Angeles as they came forward to voluntarily comply with special registration requirements.
The special registration program required nonimmigrant males from 25 Muslim-majority nations to register with immigration authorities or face detention and deportation. A little known provision of the program required annual re-registration. Critics viewed the re-registration requirement, and the entire registration process, as being designed to create “deportation traps” targeting Muslims and of little value in promoting national security.