Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

N.Y. attorney general urges President Obama to undo Bush-era program that Trump may use to track Muslims

December 21, 2016

As published by the NY Daily News on December 21, 2016.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is calling on President Obama before he leaves office to dismantle the infrastructure of a now defunct controversial Bush-era registry he fears could be resurrected to help track Muslims in America.

Schneiderman earlier this week sent a letter to the outgoing President urging his administration rescind the regulatory framework of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS).

The call comes amid President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to create a Muslim registry to help fight terrorism.

Schneiderman’s letter doesn’t mention Trump, but in a separate statement, the Attorney General said that “we can’t risk giving President-elect Trump the tools to create an unconstitutional religious registry.”

“We can never allow our nation to return to the dark days of Japanese internment. By finally dismantling the NSEERS program now, President Obama can make a repeat of that horror significantly more difficult,” he said.

Created in 2002 the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, NSEERS was designed to track and register non-immigrant males from primarily Arab, Muslim, and South Asian counties who entered the United States.

The Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security in 2011 ended the program’s registrations process, but left the regulatory framework in place.

“I believe that DHS took steps in the right direction with its April 2011 to end registration, and now encourage the administration to fully dismantle what is left of NSEERS so that it can no longer be used to instill fear and mistrust within the communities we serve,” Schneiderman wrote to Obama.

He noted NSEERS failed to result in a single terrorism-related conviction, despite having had 80,000 teenage boys and men register, but did upend families and communities as a result of 13,000 men who registered placed in removal proceedings.

“Far from being a successful law enforcement tool, the NSEERS regulatory framework serves only as a dormant reminder of a misguided and discriminatory policy,” Schneiderman wrote.

He said the system has only served to undermine trust and communication between law enforcement and community members, “thus hampering the ability of law enfacement to promote public safety.

“By facilitating the government’s ability to single out individuals for special registration, the NSEERS framework echoes policies that many Americans, including law enforcement officers, have disavowed as bearing no relationship to safety or security,” Schneiderman wrote.

A White House spokesman referred requests for comment on Schneiderman’s letter to the Department of Homeland Security, which said it didn’t have any regulatory announcements to make “at this time.”

“In 2011, DHS determined that the National Security Exit Entry Registration System (NSEERS) program was redundant and did not provide any increase in security,” department spokesman Neema Hakim said. “DHS removed all countries then designated under NSEERS, and stopped registering individuals under that program. Since then, the NSEERS program has gone unused.

“This change was made because of the substantial information and security infrastructure that was developed by DHS since the creation of NSEERS in 2002, including by implementing multiple new automated systems that capture information of all non-immigrant travelers to the United States for vetting and individualized determinations of admissibility.”

In November, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-California was one of almost 200 groups that sent a letter to the White House urging the administration rescind the NSEERS regulations for fear it could be used to boost Trump’s attempt to create a Muslim database.

Schneiderman has vowed to use his office to fight Trump policies and has already been publicly critical of several of the President-elect’s administration appointments.