Dec 16, 2009

NY Times Article Concerning NSEERS

Church Works With U.S. to Spare Detention
December 13, 2009

HIGHLAND PARK, N.J. — When the young pastor started his ministry here at the century-old Reformed Church in 2001, he gave little thought to the separate congregation of Indonesian Christians who shared the sanctuary. They worshiped quietly in their own language on Sunday afternoons, at the end of a hard week’s work in the factories and warehouses of central New Jersey.

But by May 2006, when they began pleading to sleep at the church, the pastor, the Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, had to pay attention. At the apartment complex where many Indonesians lived, armed federal immigration agents in a single night had rounded up 35 men with expired visas and outstanding deportation orders, as their wives and children cried and other families hid.

Suddenly a prosperous suburban congregation was confronted with the labyrinthine world of immigration law and detention. This year, when one of its own leaders, an Indonesian, was detained for months, only the pastor’s passionate, last-ditch efforts saved him from deportation. And the church reached a new level of activism — with extraordinary results.

Under an unusual compact between the pastor and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Newark, four Indonesians have been released from detention in recent weeks, and 41 others living as fugitives from deportation have turned themselves in under church auspices. Instead of being jailed — as hundreds of thousands of immigrants without criminal records have been in recent years — they have been released on orders of supervision, eligible for work permits while their lawyers consider how their cases might be reopened.

Though agency officials say the arrangement is simply an example of the case-by-case discretion they often use, the outcome has astonished advocates and experts in immigration enforcement, and raised hopes that it signals some broader use of humanitarian release as the Obama administration vows to overhaul the immigration system.

Still, for those who turn themselves in, the leap of faith carries big risks. For now, they can check in at a federal office every three months and, if granted a work permit, can secure a driver’s license. But they are also vulnerable to immediate deportation. Just this fall, nine Indonesian Christians in Seattle who had been on supervised release for years were abruptly detained, and some were deported.

The immigration agency issues about 10,000 orders of supervision annually, but they typically involve people who cannot be deported for practical reasons, like a homeland that will not take them back. The agency detains roughly 380,000 people a year.

“I’m totally on uncharted waters,” Mr. Kaper-Dale, 34, a Vermont native who shares the pulpit with his wife, Stephanie, said in October as he began seeking volunteers willing to place themselves in the government’s hands, from about 200 candidates not only at his church, but at several other New Jersey congregations.

The first ones to step up had to overcome fear born of experience.

“Very, very scary,” said Augus Alex Assa, 46, who fought tears as his 5-year-old daughter, Christia Celine, clung to him in the van from the church, in Middlesex County, to an immigration enforcement unit in Newark. “In my heart, I hope I will stay in the United States.”

Like most of the Indonesians, Mr. Assa and his wife, Grace, came on tourist visas that were suddenly easy for poor people to get in the 1990s, when a booming economy welcomed foreign labor with a wink and a nod. Everything changed after 9/11, when a government directive required the “special registration” of men ages 16 to 65 who had entered the country on temporary visas from a list of predominantly Muslim countries, including Indonesia. If they did not register, it was understood, they would be considered terrorist fugitives.

Most of the Indonesian Christians complied, on the advice of pastors. They hoped that honesty would open a path to legal status rather than deportation to their homeland, where many had faced discrimination and sectarian violence.

Instead, their appeals for asylum were denied in most cases, some through inattention by inept or overburdened lawyers. And those who registered became easy targets when national immigration politics demanded a crackdown.

During the 2006 raid, Mr. Assa hid in a closet when immigration agents came to the door, as his wife covered their daughter’s mouth. For two weeks afterward, they and others slept at the church.

About 50 men were eventually deported, typically after lengthy stays in immigration jails, leaving wives struggling to support American-born children. “We were shocked, but we were kind of paralyzed,” the pastor said.

On Jan. 12, the detention of one of their own spurred the congregation to action. Harry Pangemanan, a popular Bible study leader, was picked up by immigration agents as he left for work as a warehouse supervisor. He and his wife, Mariyana, parents of two American-born daughters, were the only Indonesians among the 300 people in the main congregation.

Church members organized daily visits to the detention center, a 40-minute drive away in Elizabeth, N.J., while the pastor appealed to Congressional and immigration offices. When Mr. Pangemanan reached out with his Bible to fellow detainees, the congregation visited them, too. Appalled to find asylum-seekers behind barbed wire and plexiglass, they began holding vigils outside the center, run for profit by the Corrections Corporation of America.

Some church members resisted. “As a construction worker who is directly affected by immigration, it’s very hard,” said Rich Lord, 39. “I felt like, they’re taking my jobs away.”

But his union and his faith changed his mind, he said: “There’s pregnant women so desperate in Mexico that they’re willing to cross the desert so their child will be born in the United States. And as a Christian, I have to remember that Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to flee their homeland.”

Then, at 5 a.m. on March 31, came bad news: Mr. Pangemanan was being put on a plane to Indonesia. The pastor threw on his clerical collar and ran through Newark Liberty International Airport in a frantic search for the right gate, determined to pray with his friend before he was sent away.

By the time the pastor found the flight, the passengers had already boarded. As he tells the story, he prayed at the gate, so visibly upset that an airline worker let him on the plane.

Mr. Pangemanan was in the last row between two immigration agents — bound not for Jakarta but for a detention center in Tacoma, Wash. — when he saw his pastor coming down the aisle. An astonished agent asked, “How did this guy get in here?”

“And I just put my finger up,” Mr. Pangemanan recalled, pointing heavenward.

The agents let them pray briefly; the pastor said goodbye but vowed to keep trying. Back at the church, he phoned every number on the immigration agency’s Web site.

He still cherishes the recording of the only message that came back, from Dora B. Schriro, who has since left the agency but was then special detention adviser to Janet Napolitano, secretary of homeland security. Within a week of their conversation, Mr. Pangemanan was back in New Jersey with his family, his case under reconsideration by the Board of Immigration Appeals.

When immigration agents arrested several more Indonesian men in late September, church leaders took their effort to a new level, meeting with Scott Weber, director of the detention and removal field office in New Jersey, and agency envoys from Washington.

David J. Venturella, acting director of the agency’s national detention and removal operations, said he approved the discussions. “We encourage all of our field office directors to exercise prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “This is a perfect example.”

Mr. Weber rejected the ministers’ proposal for a church-run alternative to detention, but offered his own: In groups of 5 or 10, twice a week, the church could bring in the Indonesians they vouched for, and lawyers committed to the lengthy process of seeking their full case files.

Unless something was amiss — a hidden criminal conviction, a false address — the former fugitives could walk out the same day. Even before the details were arranged, Mr. Weber released four recent Indonesian detainees, one a Muslim.

Amy Gottlieb, immigrant rights director for the American Friends Service Committee in New Jersey, who has been dealing with the field office since 1996, called it “an amazing moment.”

“One, you just never believe that ICE is going to work with you on anything, given the history,” she said. “And given the intensive arrest efforts for the last two or three years, it’s hard to believe that people are ready to recognize that every single case has a human angle.”

Rex Chen, the supervising lawyer at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark, remains more pessimistic, likening himself to a financial adviser who warns, “This mutual fund could collapse.”

While the arrangement may buy the Indonesians a year or two, he said, unless grounds are found to reopen their cases, or Congress changes immigration law, they could find “they just moved up from not known, to on the list, to you’re taking the steps up to the airplane.”

There are no guarantees, acknowledged Melinda Basaran, another participating lawyer and chairwoman of the New Jersey chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. But many of the Indonesian wives, who did not have to register after 9/11, will soon have been here 10 years without drawing official attention, making them eligible to apply for green cards.

The more pressing question is who is included in the supervised release, said Joan Pinnock, another lawyer involved. Word of mouth has brought calls from Washington State, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, where many Indonesians fled after the New Jersey raid — and where their detention and deportation continues unabated. But Newark immigration authorities have ruled out their return to New Jersey.

“I would love to get this for my Jamaican clients,” Ms. Pinnock said, echoing others who pointed to different groups, like the many Muslims affected by special registration.

On a recent Wednesday night, in a church meeting room hung with the quilts of four generations of grandmothers, fathers restored to their families thanked God and the congregation.

“I’m proud of my church,” Mr. Pangemanan said. “Not just the pastor, the whole church.”

Dec 8, 2009

Dec 7 Request to DHS and DOS for the Termination of NSEERS

Dear Secretary Clinton and Secretary Napolitano:

We are writing to request that your departments terminate the National Security Entry‐Exit Registration System (NSEERS). Implemented in the wake of September 11, 2001, NSEERS required non‐immigrant males from predominantly Muslim‐majority countries to register at ports of entry and at local immigration offices‐‐where they were fingerprinted, photographed, and subjected to lengthy questioning. Although certain registration requirements have been suspended,1 noncompliance with the program can still subject individuals to severe penalties.2 Among others,3 such individuals include those who were in the process of adjusting their status to become U.S. lawful permanent residents, but were denied adjustment because they did not register due to lack of knowledge or fear of the program or due to late registration;4 and those who were removed from the U.S. when they registered, though they had families and/or pending immigration benefits applications in the U.S.

Foreign Policy Implications

NSEERS has damaged your departments’ outreach efforts to our nation’s foreign allies and to Arab‐American, Muslim American and South Asian‐American communities in the United States. The very structure of the program ‐ explicitly targeting males based on their religion, national origin and nationality ‐ reinforced the perception that Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians were being targeted by the United States.5 From a foreign policy perspective, NSEERS left an unfortunate but lasting imprint. Many of our close allies were “opposed to having their nationals subject to NSEERS registration.”6 Moreover, fewer visitors from NSEERS countries are coming to the United States, even as travel has largely recovered from most countries in the world to near pre‐9/11 levels.7 This has meant that significantly fewer Arab and Muslim visitors are having “the opportunity to observe first hand the unique nature of American democracy and freedom and [returning] to their countries as good‐will ambassadors for the U.S.”8 However, good‐will ambassadors rate the United States approximately 25 to 30 percentage points more favorably than those who have not visited the U.S.9 Increasing the number of tourist, business and student visitors from these countries would help to break down misconceptions about the U.S., enhance our national security, and fuel the economy.

Domestic Impact and Costs

Domestically, NSEERS was created as a counterterrorism tool. However, there is no clear evidence that NSEERS has made our nation any safer, a conclusion reached in a thorough investigation by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.10 Additionally, profiles of individuals currently impacted by NSEERS indicate that the program has not focused on high‐risk individuals.11 With counterterrorism being one of the top priorities for the Department of Homeland Security, we strongly recommend that scarce resources be focused on high‐risk individuals and not on NSEERS registrants, many of whom have no criminal backgrounds, have very strong equities in our nation, and have made significant contributions to their communities. The costs incurred with NSEERS have far outweighed any counterterrorism benefits. For instance, the haphazard treatment of late NSEERS registrants has been very costly not only for the individuals but for both the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security.12

Conclusion and Recommendations

We believe that the continuing problems with NSEERS can only be remedied by terminating the program and providing reprieve for well‐intentioned individuals impacted by NSEERS.13 Terminating the program would go a long way towards improving public diplomacy efforts with the Arab and Muslim worlds; ensuring that potential U.S. citizens impacted by the residual effects of NSEERS are provided relief so that they are capable of enriching our great nation as future Arab‐ Americans, Muslim‐Americans and South Asian‐Americans; and in signaling a shift away from ineffective policies that involve racial and religious profiling. Recent developments have suggested a growing momentum for finally resolving the issues created by NSEERS.14 We urge you to end this ineffective program.

Thank you in advance for your time and attention to this letter. If you have any questions, please contact Nawar Shora, Legal Director at the American‐ Arab Anti‐Discrimination Committee and Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Clinical Professor and Director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights at Penn State Dickinson School of Law.

American‐Arab Anti‐Discrimination Committee (ADC)
American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)
Arab American Institute (AAI)
National Immigration Forum (NIF)
Rights Working Group (RWG)
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Clinical Professor and Director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights, Penn State Dickinson School of Law15

1 Department of Homeland Security, Suspending the 30‐Day and Annual Interview Requirements from the Special Registration Process for Certain Nonimmigrants, 68 Fed. Reg. 67578 (Dec. 2, 2003).
2 See id.; see also Immigration and Naturalization Service, Registration of Certain Nonimmigrant Aliens from Designated Countries, 67 Fed. Reg. 67766 (Nov. 6, 2002) (“A willful failure to comply with the requirements of this Notice constitutes a failure to maintain nonimmigrant status under section 237 (a)(1)(C)(i) of the [Immigration and Nationality] Act”).
3 See the American‐Arab Anti‐Discrimination Comm. and the Ctr. for Immigrations’ Rights at Penn State Dickinson School of Law, NSEERS: The Consequences of America’s Efforts to Secure Its Borders 6‐7 (2009),
4 Some individuals did not register as there was a “lack of awareness by the public and affected communities about the NSEERS rule and the remaining requirements.” Moreover, “whether the government’s release of special registration through publications in the Federal Register constitutes adequate notice” is still in question. See id. at 20.
5 See Department of Homeland Security, Roundtable on Security and Liberty: Perspectives of Young Leaders Post-9/11 Washington, D.C.: Report For Government Officials and Policy Makers, (last visited Dec. 6, 2009) (Young leaders from the Post‐9/11 communities believe that “NSEERS […] disproportionately target[s] their communities.”).
6 National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Staff Report, 9/11 and Terrorist Travel 159 (2004),
7 See Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. Immigration Policy 25 (Council on Foreign Relations, Inc. 2009), available at (For instance, “in 2008, the number of visas issued to nationals of Egypt, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Jordan, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia remained well below their pre‐9/11 levels, in some cases half or less.”).
8 Letter from the Senators Durbin and Feingold, and late Senator Kennedy to the Honorable Tom Ridge, January 23, 2004.
9 See Council on Foreign Relations, supra note 7, at 24.
10 See National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, supra note 6, at 157‐60.
11 See the American‐Arab Anti‐Discrimination Comm. and the Ctr. for Immigrations’ Rights at Penn State Dickinson School of Law, supra note 3, at 25‐26.
12 Posting of Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia to Race Matters blog,‐on‐late‐nseers‐registration.html (Nov. 19, 2009) (“This wastes precious EOIR resources, and moreover reflects a poor judgment or failure of DHS to exercise prosecutorial discretion prudently and favorably toward individuals who present strong equities.”).
13 See the American‐Arab Anti‐Discrimination Comm. and the Ctr. for Immigrations’ Rights at Penn State Dickinson School of Law, supra note 3, at 38‐39.
14 See Press Release, American‐Arab Anti Discrimination Committee, Office of Inspector General at DHS to Audit NSEERS at the Request of ADC and Other Major Organizations (Nov. 19, 2009), ; see also Robert Bonner & Edward Alden, The Wrong Way to Screen Visitors, Wash. Post, Nov. 21, 2009, available at
15 Affiliation listed for informational purposes only.

NSEERS: Wrong Then, Still Wrong Now -- Submitted by Priya Murthy, SAALT

Mohammad Sarfaraz Hussain

Mohammad Sarfaraz Hussain of Queens, New York, was an 18-year-old Pakistani immigrant who came to New York at age seven to visit his mother who was dying of cancer. Shortly after his mother died, his father in Pakistan passed away just as they were on the verge of getting their immigration papers. Having no family left in Pakistan, Mohammad stayed in Queens with his uncle for more than a decade. Mohammad became a popular high school athlete with goals of attending college and playing professional basketball. In 2003, however, his life changed after he complied with NSEERS. Upon registering, he was ordered to be deported. Mohammad was due to appear before an immigration judge, when Rep. Gary Ackerman of New York, fortunately, intervened and urged for dismissing the deportation case. As a result, Mohammad was permitted to remain in the United States. While Mohammad was one of the lucky ones, thousands of others faced another fate in deportation proceedings. (Story featured in the film “Whose Children Are These?”)

Mr. A.

Originally from Pakistan, Mr. A. was a legally blind elderly gentleman who resided in Brooklyn. He came to the United States to seek medical treatment for his blindness and was living here for over ten years. He subsequently overstayed his visa and became undocumented. Then, in the winter of 2003, he learned of NSEERS at a town hall meeting with government officials. At the meeting, he was encouraged to register and learned that this may legalize his status. Subsequently, Mr. A. appeared for NSEERS and, to his surprise, was detained by immigration officials due to his status. During his detention he was held in a highly air-conditioned room in winter, told to remove his warm clothing, and has his passport confiscated. Lacking any identification or immigration status, Mr. A. was unable to obtain necessary medical treatment for his eyes. Following his detention, he was placed in removal proceedings. (Story collected by one of SAALT’s community partner organizations in New York City)

Abu Hasan Mahmud Parvez

Abu Hasan Mahmud Parvez is a native and citizen of Bangladesh who entered the United States on a diplomatic visa and was later granted a student visa. He then married a Bangladeshi woman, who was in the process of applying for a green card, and together they had a United States citizen son. However, Parvez was placed in removal proceedings due to a visa overstay, even after complying with NSEERS. (Story featured in “NSEERS: The Consequences of America’s Efforts to the Secure Its Borders” report)

The impact is clear and it is time to terminate the program and reassess what the costs were – in terms of dollars and cents, loss of community trust, and the devastating impact on individuals and families. South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), along with many other organizations, welcomes the recent announcement of the audit of NSEERS by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General. From the lack of efficacy as the counter-terrorism tool it was purported to be to the high volume of deportations resulting from minor immigration violations, this program has long deserved closer scrutiny and accountability. While the details of the audit's parameters are yet to be seen, we look forward to seeing a full accounting of the program and the members of the South Asians, Arab and Muslim community members it has affected.

Priya Murthy is the Policy Director at South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national, nonprofit organization that amplifies the voices and perspectives of South Asians in national policy dialogues, and strengthens the leadership of South Asian organizations and individuals. SAALT also coordinates the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO), a network of 39 community-based organizations that serve, organize, and advocate on behalf of South Asians around the country on various issues, including NSEERS.

Dec 2, 2009

NSEERS Story Submitted by J. Doe, November 2009

I first entered the US on an F-1 visa in January 2000. I did my Masters degree in Computer Science at Michigan State University, and I got my degree in May 2001. A few weeks before graduation I accepted an employment offer at Microsoft Corp. in Redmond, WA. After graduation I worked for about a year on my F-1 visa according to the optional practical training program, then I applied for my first H-1B visa.

Due to all the immigration policy changes that came into effect after September 2001 I had to get my H-1 B visa stamp from my country of origin (Egypt). I went to Egypt on vacation in July 2002, and I applied for the visa stamp at the U.S. Consulate in Cairo a few days after my arrival. At that point I had been living in the US for about 2 years and a half, but still the background check process took about 4 months. Of course I couldn't go back to the US until I got the visa stamp in November 2002. Fortunately I was able to work remotely from the Microsoft office in Cairo for those 4 months.

Almost three years later my visa was about to expire and I had to apply for a new one. Again I applied for that visa while on vacation in Egypt in September 2005. I was thrilled to get that visa in less than a week. However, that same visa was cancelled a few days later by an immigration officer at the SeaTac airport because of an NSEERS violation.

I was aware that being an Egyptian citizen I had to register at an immigration office every time I had to leave the US. I did it only once, and the whole experience was too r[i]diculous that I decided not to register before departure again. Putting the obvious discriminatory nature of the NSEERS program aside, the immigration officers didn't know how to use the system, the system was too slow and the officers were kind of surprised when I showed up to register. Of course I had no choice when it came to registering at arrival time. That day in early October 2005 I arrived at the SeaTac airport after a very long trip, and I had to wait for about an hour for an immigration officer to go through the NSEERS regist[]ration process. It took the officer about one more hour to figure out that I didn't register on my way out of the US, and that according to the US immigration law I was not admiss[i]ble to the US. I was too tired to complain, so I stayed calm and decided to fly to any Canadian city (I had a valid Canadian visa) to spend the night and contact Microsoft to see if this problem can be resolved. However, the immigration officer told me I had to fly back to Cairo and not anywhere else, but I insisted on my right to go wherever I want. After a few hours of negotiations and t[e]dious paperwork, the officer allowed me to enter the US with a 2-week parole document (after my US visa was cancelled). I was finally able to leave the airport after about 9 hours of the arrival of my flight.

When I got home I contacted my boss and told him the whole story and that I can't come to work because I am not eligible to work while on that parole status. The following day Microsoft hired me an immigration lawyer who spent about an hour with me and heard the story. He contacted the immigration office at SeaTac later that day and got all the legal details he wanted from them. The following day he called me and told me all I had to do is to stand in front of an immigration judge and promise not to violate NSEERS anymore. The only other alternative was to leave the US by the end of the parole period.

I thought about the whole situation overnight. I had a promising career, lots of friends and many great memories in the US, but being treated as a “high risk individual” only because of where I come from was an insult that I couldn't accept. Even worse, that same federal government that thinks I'm a threat happily takes tens of thousands of dollars from my paycheck every year in income taxes. The following day I called my lawyer and told him I will quit my job, pack and leave.

My career was interrupted for a few months, but eventually things went back on track. I currently live and work in Canada, and I never regret my decision to leave the US. I am sure NSEERS will be cancelled one day, if not because of its shameful discriminatory nature then because it is a big waste of time and money. Only then I will be able to drive to the Michi[g]an State campus (which is about 3 hours from where I currently live) and relive the great memories I had there.

Nov 21, 2009

The Momentum re. the Termination of NSEERS Is Growing

We would like to share with you today's Washington Post Op-ed on NSEERS. Co-authored by former CBP Commissioner Robert Bonner and National Security expert and Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations Edward Alden, the Op-ed also mentions the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General's NSEERS audit to be conducted in early January 2010. Moreover, the Op-ed provides reasons as to why NSEERS needs to be abolished from a national security standpoint and perspective.

Below is the full text:

The wrong way to screen visitors

By Robert Bonner and Edward Alden
Saturday, November 21, 2009

Is traveling to the United States a "harrowing experience," as a Pakistani delegate to the International Olympic Committee claimed when the IOC rejected Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Games? The vast majority of the 25 million visitors arriving from overseas at U.S. airports each year experience no more than an inconvenience. But for hundreds of thousands, including Pakistanis such as the IOC delegate, it can be both difficult and unpleasant.

Men from Pakistan and two dozen other countries face onerous "special registration" procedures under the National Security Entry-Exit System set up after Sept. 11, 2001. While this was an understandable precaution in the aftermath of the attacks, more precise and effective measures have since been developed. The Department of Homeland Security inspector general agreed this week to audit the program, which was already under high-level review at the State Department. The Obama administration should promptly eliminate the program.

The Justice Department launched the system in 2002 to scrutinize the group thought to present the highest risk -- men from countries where al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups have a presence. Most visitors to the States are interviewed only by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer who inspects their passport. The men in the group, however, are automatically pulled aside for "secondary inspection" and are often kept waiting for hours. Even those who have visited the United States multiple times, or live here on work or student visas, are subject to detailed questioning and searches before being allowed to enter the country.

Further, these men can leave the country only through designated airports where the federal government has set up exit controls. Failure to "check out" through these airports could result in an individual being barred from returning or emigrating.

Faced with such obstacles, many men from these countries have given up on coming to the United States. While the number of visits from overseas had nearly rebounded to pre-Sept. 11 levels before the recession, travel from Muslim countries remains sharply depressed. This widens the gulf between the United States and the Islamic world, which further inhibits U.S. efforts to counter extremist propaganda in some regions. Meanwhile, surveys in Arab countries have found that favorability toward the United States is 25 to 30 percent higher among those who have traveled to the States or have a relative living here.

The special-registration program has also soured U.S. relations with some friendly countries. Indonesia, the largest majority-Muslim country, was outraged to be included in the program despite showing strong support for the United States after the 2001 attacks. Today, the number of visitors from Indonesia is about half that of a decade ago.

Such costs would be worth it if the program proved effective in stopping or deterring terrorists from entering the country. But the 9/11 Commission found no evidence of this, and none has been offered since.

U.S. border screening procedures have improved tremendously in recent years, which further diminishes the value of the special-registration program. Now, all visitors who require visas -- including citizens from the countries requiring "special registration" -- are interviewed by U.S. consular officers and fingerprinted. The prints are checked again by Customs and Border Protection upon the traveler's arrival in the States.

Airlines must provide detailed information on all arriving passengers, giving customs officials hours to run names through the agency's automated risk assessment system. That's much better than having 60 seconds at the primary inspection kiosk. These names are checked against the terrorist watch list and are scrutinized for various intelligence-driven indicators of potential terrorist threat. Those deemed potential threats are subject to secondary counterterrorism questioning by specially trained border officers.

These more careful methods are effective. Raed al-Banna, a young man with no history of terrorist links, was pulled aside at Chicago's O'Hare airport in 2003 after the computer targeting system identified him as deserving additional scrutiny. After questioning he was refused entry and sent back to Jordan; two years later, he killed 132 people in a suicide car bombing in Iraq.

We know that terrorist groups are recruiting in Europe and have sought to train female operatives. A program that pulls aside only men from Muslim countries is not the sophisticated response required to counter such efforts. Further, eliminating the program would in no way restrict U.S. border officials' authority to question and search anyone; it would simply end the automatic scrutiny of a certain class of individuals.

As the United States continues the struggle against terrorism, it should constantly evaluate the best tools at hand. Special registration is not one of these, and it should be abolished.

Robert Bonner, the first commissioner of Customs and Border Protection at the Department of Homeland Security, is senior principal at Sentinel HS Group, a Vienna-based homeland-security consulting firm. Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, was project director for the recent Independent Task Force on U.S. Immigration Policy.

Nov 20, 2009


There are some new positive developments that we would like to share: the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it will conduct an audit on NSEERS in early January 2010. For more information, please view ADC's press release on the issue:

Nov 19, 2009

Commentary on Late NSEERS Registration from Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Penn State Law’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights:

Since the ADC and Penn State Law's Center for Immigrants' Rights report, last March, we have continued to engage the agency, advocates, and the public about ongoing concerns with the NSEERS program. Recent anecdotes from practitioners suggest a continuing disparity from region to region regarding late registration. Some of these stories are featured below. In some regions, men continue to be placed into removal proceedings based on their "failure" to register. This wastes precious EOIR resources, and moreover reflects a poor judgment or failure of DHS to exercise prosecutorial discretion prudently and favorably toward individuals who present strong equities. In other regions, late registrants are not being placed into removal proceedings but instead are being required to undergo an interview and exchange dense correspondence with ICE and/or USCIS in order to be "cleared" for late registration. In some cases, local USCIS offices continue to misinterpret any noncompliance with registration as a "willful" failure to register, thereby subjecting individuals to immigration and criminal-related penalties. In some cases, this means that individuals who are employed in the United States and/or married to a United States Citizen are being denied green cards based on a “failure” to register. The foregoing problems are not just related to poor discretion and burdensome agency costs, but in fact reflect a damaging domestic and foreign policy that can only be remedied by terminating the NSEERS program and providing reprieve for well intentioned individuals impacted by the program. In the short term, DHS, DOJ and DOS must ensure that prosecutorial and adjudicatory discretion are favorably exercised toward individuals who are eligible for a current or future immigration benefit, but who may have not complied with an NSEERS requirement. Similarly, DHS must discontinue branding would-be green card holders with a "willful failure to register" without justification or foundation. Finally, DHS must modify or repeal the various NSEERS-related memos that conflict with the spirit and language of the Meissner memo on prosecutorial discretion. Special thanks to attorneys Malea Kiblan and Denyse Sabagh for assisting with collecting the stories shared below.


Redacted Email from Denyse Sabagh, November 16, 2009:

“I am writing to you to advise you of a Late Registration interview I had a couple of weeks ago, October 29, 2009 which makes the case as to why it doesn’t work and why unjust decisions are made. It also points out very effectively why NSEERS Registration needs to go.

My client had a deportation hearing in October, 2009. The Judge was going to grant adjustment based upon an I-130 USC approved spouse petition and I-485. They have a young child. However, because the trial attorney kept pushing on the fact that my client didn’t register, the judge said we needed to register and gave us until Dec. to register him. My client had not received the letter from CIS during the adjustment process requesting proof of late registration.

I called ICE about coming in for a late registration interview. I asked if they wanted his A # or needed information. They said no, just come in. We got to ICE, Sterling, Va. about 9 am. We waited about 45 minutes. We were then called in. The first question asked was - where is the CIS letter requesting late registration. We advised he didn’t get one. He was then asked questions such as what was the purpose of your visit, do you go to religious services, do you read the newspapers, or listen to the radio. He was asked why he didn’t register. He stated that he did not know about it and didn’t know what it was. He had just turned 17 when he entered the US in June, 2002. He was in high school, barely spoke English and was in a valid V-2 status. His family didn’t speak much English at the time, were not involved in the community and didn’t know about Registration. Registration started for Jordanians in Feb. 2003, I believe. He was asked about what he had done since high school, what he is doing now, marital status, phone numbers etc. I provided a copy of my pleading file to the agents along with copies of applications and approval notices. They advised they needed to check some things and to come back at about 11:15 am.

We came back at 11:15 and were advised that a meeting had been called so we needed to wait. After about 45 minutes – 1 hour, we were called back in. They advised they would fingerprint him and photograph him. I advised I wanted to be present for the rest of the interview. I waited about 10 minutes and knocked on the door. I advised that I wanted to be present. I was advised it was their policy that lawyers could not be present. I explained that I had represented many NSEERS registrants and that lawyers were always allowed to be present. In addition, lawyers were allowed to be present at late registrations. He checked with his supervisor, returned and let me in. This time [the] supervisor was also present. No sooner was I inside, they said they were going to stamp “willful failure” to register in his passport. I was surprised given the fact that he was in status, the clarity, detail, consistency of his answers and his minority. I asked why. They said they were following their guidelines. I asked what those guidelines were. He sent one of the agents out. He returned with the Group IV registration instructions for the initial registration period. I explained that these were just instructions for the initial registration. They relied on them to prove that he knew he was supposed to register and didn’t. It made no sense. I explained again that this young man had no reason not to register, he was in valid status, had just turned 17, didn’t speak English, was trying to deal with a new high school in the US and had he known about Registration, he would have registered. The agents said it was no excuse. They said absent catastrophic illness or jail, there was not a valid excuse. I explained that is not a correct standard. They had to determine if it was “willful.” They said that no one would be a “willful” violator if all they had to say was they didn’t know. I explained that each person was judged on his own circumstances. I also explained that I recently had taken [his] brother in to change his “willful failure” to “regist[er]” under the same circumstances and it was granted. They said they couldn’t speak to that (even though [the supervisor] is one of the agents with whom I spoke). I was adamant that I didn’t want a “willful failure stamp” as there was no reason why this young man shouldn’t be granted adjustment. The supervisor said they would only stamp [h]is passport with willful failure if they did it that day. He offered to talk to District Counsel and have us come back. He said we would hear from him in 2 weeks. That was last Friday, November 13. To date, we have not heard from them. I have left messages for a Deputy Special Agent in Charge in Fairfax and have had no responses.”


Email from Sophie Feal, November 2, 2009:

“In the past few years, I‘ve done two of these with success in Buffalo, NY. They found the failure [to register] was not willful (I had thoroughly briefed it and attached a sworn affidavit), then reg’d the person, then granted the 485 [Adjustment of Status].”


Email from Paul Soreff, October 30, 2009:

Here in Seattle the way it has worked is that if it comes up during the interview, the AOS [Adjustment of Status] case is put on hold to allow the person to go to ICE to late register. There they have a very simple process and accept the registration and then the AOS goes forward. I have done this a couple of time[s] in the past (more than 1 yr ago) for folks. However I believe the process may be different now since I think I heard that the local ICE office no longer has folks to do the registration. So other attorneys here may have more current info.”


Excerpt from ADC-Penn State Report NSEERS: The Consequences of America’s Efforts to Secure Its Borders, March 31, 2009:

“Mr. Nasser, a native of Morocco, came to the United States as a visitor in 2001, and fell in love with and married Patricia Amy Stewart, an American citizen. They have three young children, all of whom were born in the United States. Mr. Nasser stated in his complaint that he was not aware of the requirement for registration. According to Mr. Nasser’s complaint, “at all times relevant hereto, Plaintiff in good faith attempted to comply with the special registration requirements of the NSEERS program established by the Attorney General which consisted of multiple and confusing notices published in the Federal Register expanding the class of affected foreign citizens and nationals, changing the deadlines for compliance and listing varying periods of admission.” Ms. Stewart filed an immediate relative petition on her husband’s behalf on February 5, 2002, and on that same date Mr. Nasser filed an application for adjustment of status and work authorization. Pursuant to his pending adjustment, Mr. Nasser appeared at a local DHS office on June 3, 2003 for the processing of his employment authorization application. Despite being called in to process his work authorization, at no point did DHS advise Mr. Nasser that he needed to register under NSEERS. On January 19, 2006, Mr. Nasser underwent special registration as a condition of his pending application for adjustment of status. On March 21, 2006, Nasser was denied adjustment of status and was found to have “willfully” violated NSEERS. This has left Mr. Nasser in the difficult position of being ineligible to work because he has no legal status in the United States, and has harshly impacted him and members of his immediate family.”

Oct 29, 2009

NSEERS: "The nation’s broadest campaign of ethnic profiling since World War II"

In their book, "Less Safe, Less Free: Why American is loosing the War on Terror," Professors David Cole and Jules Lobel made a compelling case as to why preventive law enforcement has failed, and why "anticipatory coercion has nearly always proved to be a grave mistake, not only as a matter of principle but also as a matter of effective security."

Below is an excerpt from Part II of the book, "Less Safe"- chapter 4, "The Failure of Preventive Law Enforcement"- with the subsection entitled "Immigration Enforcement: 0 For 93,000"-page 107

“When Attorney General John Ashcroft first announced the ‘paradigm of prevention’ in a speech in October 2001 in New York City, he vowed that the administration would use all laws within its power to round up suspected terrorists and prevent them from inflicting further damage upon us. He explicitly singled out immigration law, warning terrorists that that if they ‘overstayed [their] visa by even one day,’ they would be locked up. The administration subsequently adopted a zero-tolerance immigration policy towards immigrants and visitors from Arab and Muslim countries, on the theory that it would thereby root out the terrorists. But the nation’s broadest campaign of ethnic profiling since World War II came up empty. The Special Registration program, which required 80,000 men from predominantly Arab and Muslim countries to register after September 11, resulted in not a single terrorist conviction. Of the 8,000 men of Arab and Muslim descent sought out for FBI interviews, and the more than 5,000 foreign nationals placed in preventive detention in the first two years after 9/11, virtually all Arabs and Muslims, not one stands convicted of a terrorist crime today. In these initiatives, the government’s record is 0 for 93,000.”

Oct 9, 2009

UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) calls on US Government to review NSEERS

In a letter to the U.S. Government regarding the U.S.’s compliance with the International Convention on the elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, CERD called for a review of NSEERS. The letter, dated September 28, 2009, specifically stated that “[t]he Committee […] stresses the need to review the National Entry and Exit Registration System, NSEERS, with a view of avoiding racial profiling in migration policies.”

This is not the first time that CERD has called for a review of NSEERS. The 2008 CERD recommendations called on the U.S. Government to “put an end to the National Entry and Exit Registration System (NEERS) and to eliminate other forms of racial profiling against Arabs, Muslims and South Asians.”

Oct 1, 2009

Significant Questions About NSEERS Raised by Malea Kiblan, Esq.

We would appreciate as many responses to the following questions as possible from all over the country so that these findings can be conveyed to CIS and ICE Headquarters:

When someone is required to late register for NSEERS, how is that process handled by ICE in your jurisdiction?

Are you allowed as an attorney to be present with your client during the interview? Are you allowed to provide evidence?

Does ICE make any specific findings of fact?

Do they accept testimony that the applicant simply was not aware of the program or his obligation to register?

Do they make consistent “willful” findings? How does CIS respond to a willful finding – do they deny Ajustment of Status?

Template for a blog entry on "Race Matters"

Please find below a brief worksheet for blog entries on “Race Matters.” This worksheet is only a suggestion, and is designed to help guide you when writing a blog entry for yourself/your client. Please note that you are also more than welcome to discuss ideas/thoughts or policy issues that may not be spelled out in the worksheet. Thank you for contributing to Race Matters! If you have any questions, comments or suggestions regarding the worksheet, please write to


• Name (or fictitious name)
• Country of Origin/Nationality
• Degrees
• Profession
• Marital Status
• Where do you/does your client currently live?


• Family ties in the US: please include name (or fictitious name), age and relationship
• Community ties in the US
• Length of Residence in the US


• When and how did you/your client hear about the NSEERS program?
• Where did you/your client live during the implementation of the program?
• When did you/your client register under NSEERS? Was the registration at a port of entry or a local immigration office?
• Did you/your client have an immigration attorney at the time he registered or for any other reason?
• Did you/your client register on time? If not, did you/your client go through late registration? Where? Which USCIS/ICE district office? Please explain the process.
• If you/your client registered late, which office made the decision about your registration? What were the result and reasoning behind such decision?


• Have you applied for an immigration benefit since you entered the US? Please explain
• Have you been denied an immigration benefit based on noncompliance with NSEERS? Please explain
• If you have been denied a benefit, has the basis for your denial been based on a “willful” failure to register? Who made the decision and one what date?


please note that when sharing your entry or story with the co-hosts of “Race Matters,” you are giving permission to have the information provided posted on the blog and used for advocacy purposes.

Sep 21, 2009

Over 40 organizations call for an NSEERS audit

On Thursday September 17, 2009, over 40 organizations sent a letter to the DHS Inspector General calling for an NSEERS audit. Below is ADC's press release issued regarding the letter:

Washington, DC | September 17, 2009 | | Today, more than 40 organizations, including the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), submitted a letter to Richard L. Skinner, US Department of Homeland Security Inspector General (DHS IG), requesting an audit of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). The letter calls for DHS IG to make findings on the effectiveness of NSEERS, the costs incurred with implementing the program, the relationship between NSEERS and the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program, the use of NSEERS in Operation Frontline , the impact of NSEERS non-compliance on individuals and families, and the adequacy of notice surrounding the program.

The impact of NSEERS on the Arab-American, South Asian-American and Muslim-American communities endures. As documented in the report issued by ADC and the Center for Immigrants’ Rights at Penn State University Dickinson School of Law, "NSEERS: The Consequences of America's efforts to Secure Its Borders." (March, 2009) , “[w]ell-intentioned individuals who failed to comply with NSEERS due to a lack of knowledge or fear have been denied “adjustment of status” (green cards), and in some cases have been placed in removal proceedings under the premise that they “willfully” failed to register. This scenario has torn apart families because of the real implications of having a parent or spouse without a legal status.”

ADC National Executive Director Kareem Shora, who earlier this year was sworn in as a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) said, “Using immigration law as a counterterrorism tool with racial profiling tactics has failed in the past, and continues to fail,” said Shora, “the perceived injustice of singling out people based on national origin and penalizing them for their cooperation with a government program may have resulted in significant harm to the relationship of trust between law enforcement and the Arab and Muslim American and immigrant communities—a relationship that is vital to the national security of the United States. Nearly 14,000 men who complied with call-in registration were placed in removal proceedings. If a goal of special registration was to track possible terrorists, deporting those who complied with the program undermines this aim, especially since it may reduce future compliance.”

The letter to the DHS IG was signed by a wide range of local, state and national organizations, including community-based groups, faith-based organizations, civil and human rights groups, coalition groups, and immigration advocacy groups.

Sep 15, 2009

Recommendations to the Obama Administration

Below is the executive summary of "NSEERS: The Consequences of America’s efforts to Secure Its Borders," published by the Center for Immigrants’ Rights at Penn State University’s Dickinson School of Law and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).

"The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) program was implemented as a counterterrorism tool in the wake of September 11, 2001. The NSEERS program required certain non-immigrants to register themselves at ports of entry and local immigration offices for fingerprints, photographs and lengthy questioning. The most controversial aspect of the NSEERS program was a “domestic” component that solicited registrations from more than 80,000 males who were inside the United States on temporary visas from Muslim-majority countries. In September 2003, of the more than 80,000 individuals who complied with call-in registration, 13,799 were referred to investigations and received notices to appear, and 2,870 were detained.

Many non-immigrants subjected to the NSEERS program did not understand the details of the program, as the rules were unclear and public outreach and notice were insufficient. NSEERS’s initial mission was to keep track of non-immigrants and prevent terrorist attacks. However, interviews with immigration attorneys representing individuals impacted by NSEERS and policy advocates, and a review of multiple reports and federal court decisions reveal that the NSEERS program was unsuccessful as a counterterrorism tool.

Many of the individuals who legally challenged the NSEERS program entered the United States lawfully, diligently complied with the NSEERS program, were predominantly male and Muslim, and had an immigration violation such as overstaying a visa that came to the attention of the immigration agency after complying with NSEERS. Moreover, many individuals impacted by NSEERS do not appear to have terrorism charges or criminal histories. Notably, many of these individuals have meaningful family, business and cultural ties to the United States.

Indeed, more than seven years after its implementation, NSEERS continues to impact the Arab-American community. Impacted individuals include those who are married to United States citizens or meaningfully employed in the United States. Well-intentioned individuals who failed to comply with NSEERS due to a lack of knowledge or fear have been denied “adjustment of status” (green cards), and in some cases have been placed in removal proceedings under the theory that they “willfully” failed to register. This scenario has torn apart Arab-American families because of the real implications of having a parent or spouse without a legal status. NSEERS has also raised a number of public policy questions. Public outcry, governmental criticism of the program, and judicial challenges demonstrate that the program has not necessarily benefited the United States’ domestic and foreign policy. Today, the United States is at a critical and historic juncture: a new Administration presents an opportunity to restore America’s character, and reexamine and overhaul ill-conceived policies implemented in the last eight years. With this in mind, this white paper offers the following recommendations to the Obama Administration:

1. The Administration should terminate the NSEERS program and repeal related regulations.

2. Individuals who did not comply with NSEERS due to lack of knowledge or fear should not lose eligibility for or be denied a specific relief or benefit, to which they are otherwise NSEERS: The Consequences of America’s Efforts to Secure Its Borders eligible. Similarly, the Administration should provide relief to individuals who were placed in removal proceedings because of their participation in NSEERS.

3. The Administration should allow individuals impacted by NSEERS, who have been removed, to return to the United States, should they have a basis for re-entering the United States. Special consideration should be given to individuals with immediate family members living in the United States and/or those with pending benefits applications.

4. The Administration should eliminate programs that target people based on ethnic origin, race, nationality, religion and/or gender. The Administration should insure that agencies adhere to a standard of individualized suspicion.

5. Upon termination of the NSEERS program, the Administration should issue a formal apology to foreign visitors subject to the NSEERS program, in order to rectify the impression left on many affected communities impacted by the special registration program. The apology should be issued through a press release and a formal letter posted on the website of the Department of Homeland Security. The government should clarify that ethnic origin, race, nationality, religion and/or gender alone are not a sufficient basis of criteria for identifying terrorists.

6. With transparency being a pillar of the current Administration, DHS should release the number of terrorists identified through the NSEERS program and related data, in order to assess the government’s professed success of the program."