Department of Homeland Security Removes Designated Countries from Controversial Surveillance Program

In a significant triumph in the fight against racial profiling, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its decision to modify and effectively suspend the controversial National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), an extensive registration process that targets visitors from Arab, South Asian, and Muslim countries.

The program, which was created in 2002, required nonimmigrant nationals or citizens from specific countries designated by the Secretary of Defense to undergo “special registration procedures” during entry into and exit from the United States. These procedures included fingerprinting, photographs, and extensive questioning, exposing non-immigrant visitors of 25 Arab, South Asian and Muslim-majority countries to discrimination and coercion. The NSEERS program has been heavily criticized as a counter-productive response in the wake of the 2001 terror attacks for its encouragement of racial profiling and failure to produce significant results.

“During the past nine years, NSEERS inflicted enormous costs on those people subject to special registration and eroded our government’s commitment to the principle of equal protection in law enforcement,” said Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office. “The federal government must now work to remedy these injustices and take every available step to reverse the adverse immigration consequences that resulted from individuals being subjected to special registration under NSEERS.”

The decision is welcomed by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which identified the NSEERS program and other policies in its recent report, “Restoring a National Consensus: The Need to End Racial Profiling,” as an example of federal programs that encourages racial profiling.