Aug 17, 2010

Letter to DHS Secretary Napolitano urging the termination of NSEERS

August 16, 2010

The Honorable Janet Napolitano

Secretary of Homeland Security

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Washington, DC 20528

Dear Secretary Napolitano:

We are writing to follow-up on our letter dated December 7, 2009, in which we requested that your Department terminate the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). We have since been informed that your office is in the process of reviewing the NSEERS program, which we welcome as a positive step forward.

We urge you to terminate NSEERS, particularly in light of the recent shift away from racial and religious profiling as evidenced by the rescission of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA’s) screening policy in April 2010, the continued dissemination of inaccurate information on NSEERS, and the lack of understanding by some of Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) own employees about the current status of NSEERS. In addition, we are providing you with proposed policy considerations and practicable solutions to be implemented in the post-termination stages.

I - Relevant Developments since our December 7, 2009 Correspondence:

A) Movement Away from Policies Based on Racial and Religious Profiling

Since our last correspondence, we welcomed the rescission of the TSA screening policy,[i] which targeted travelers and nationals from fourteen predominantly Muslim countries--including U.S. citizens--for extra scrutiny in international airports. This rescission signaled a change in the structure of national security policies, mainly a shift away from policies based on racial, religious, and national origin profiling to policies based on intelligence-driven information.

NSEERS and the now-defunct TSA policy share one common denominator: the targeting of individuals based on their country of origin and/or religion. We call on your Department to take prompt action to terminate NSEERS, applying a similar reasoning to that which your Department articulated when rescinding the TSA policy.

B) Persistence of Inaccurate Information Regarding NSEERS

We are particularly concerned that dissemination of inaccurate information regarding NSEERS registration procedures continues to this day, eight years after its initial implementation. This was evidenced by the May 5, 2010, notice published in the Federal Register (Vol. 75, No. 86), 75 FR 24721. The notice stated that NSEERS:

“. . . requires certain nonimmigrant aliens to make specific reports to USICE upon arrival, approximately 30 days after arrival, every 12 months after arrival; upon certain events, such as change of address, employment or school; and at the time they leave the United States.”

This information, however, was partly overruled by DHS’s 2003 interim rule suspending the automatic 30-day and annual registration requirements.[ii] Moreover, the procedures for special registration at departure remain intact and are conducted by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents or a CBP field office director and not by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (USICE), as stated in the May 5, 2010, notice.[iii]

Unfortunately, such dissemination of inaccurate information on NSEERS is not new. When NSEERS was initially rolled out, government officials reported the existence of contradictory or inaccurate NSEERS-related notices.[iv] Recent incidents shared by NSEERS registrants at ports of entry also illustrate the continued dissemination of inaccurate information on the current status of NSEERS. Specifically, community-based organizations have received reports that confusion remains among CBP agents as to where NSEERS currently stands and/or what it requires.[v]

The initial lack of adequate notice of the program coupled with the continued dissemination of inaccurate information on the program provide great rationale for the need to terminate NSEERS. The structure and scope of the program have been immensely challenging to follow, have encouraged racial profiling, and continue to profoundly harm individuals. The program has also placed a heavy burden on both registrants [vi] and employees of governmental agencies, many of whom lack sufficient understanding of the program’s requirements.

C) DHS OIG’s Audit of NSEERS

In November 2009, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) committed to undertake a review of the NSEERS program.[vii] The OIG has listed the audit in its Revised Annual Performance Plan as planned to commence by FY 2010.[viii] It is our understanding that the OIG is currently working with top DHS leadership to further define the scope of the audit; however, no specific timeline has yet been determined.

While we urge you to act promptly to terminate NSEERS, we still believe that the OIG audit should be thoughtfully undertaken and fully completed following termination of the program. This audit presents a unique opportunity to identify the problems and burdensome costs incurred both by government agencies and registrants and to provide details about the impact of NSEERS on affected communities, which could inform the kind of solutions needed post-termination. Such careful documentation of the problems with NSEERS can help ensure that similar programs with widespread detrimental effects are not implemented in the future.

In short, we view your Department’s review and the OIG’s audit as separate and independent. We hope you will decide to terminate NSEERS promptly, and that the OIG’s audit will still proceed after the termination of the program. Similarly, should any prospective termination be on the horizon, we call for such termination not to be delayed due to the planned OIG’s audit.

II - Practicable Immigration Solutions for Those Currently Adversely Affected by


If NSEERS is terminated, we are eager to provide your Department with our expertise in finding meaningful solutions for those individuals whose immigration status has been negatively affected by NSEERS. In addition, we can provide your Department with a list of immigration law practitioners who deal with NSEERS cases on a daily basis and who can aid in arriving at practicable solutions.

In addition to urging the termination of NSEERS, we also recommend that individuals who were unfairly affected be provided relief. These recommendations include but are not limited to:

1. Individuals who did not comply with NSEERS due to a lack of knowledge or fear of negative consequences should not lose eligibility or be denied specific relief or a benefit, to which they are otherwise eligible. Similarly, the Administration should provide relief to individuals who were placed in removal proceedings because of their participation in NSEERS.

2. 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 benefit applications.[ix]

Moreover, in the short term, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) needs to make sure that discretion is favorably exercised towards those eligible for a current or future immigration benefit, but who may not have complied with an NSEERS requirement.[x] Equally important, USCIS needs to discontinue branding potential green card holders with a “willful failure to register” label without justification or foundation.[xi] This branding has taken place across the board in many local USCIS offices, without giving consideration to the many favorable factors and strong equities that an NSEERS registrant may have.

Finally, DHS should repeal or modify various NSEERS-related memos that conflict with the Meissner memo, which had specifically called on the then Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) officers to take into account various factors when exercising prosecutorial discretion. Some of these factors include: Immigration status, length of residence in the U.S., criminal history, humanitarian concerns, immigration history, whether the alien is eligible or is likely to be eligible for other relief, effect of future admissibility, current or past collaboration with law enforcement authorities, community attention, and resources available to the then-INS.[xii] Sadly, many of the NSEERS cases would not have been a focus of the immigration agency had these factors been applied, thus saving resources and maximizing efficiency to several components of DHS.

III - Conclusion:

The continuing problems with NSEERS can only be remedied by terminating the program and providing relief for well-intentioned individuals affected by NSEERS.[xiii] Such termination would underscore your Department’s shift away from ineffective policies involving racial and/or religious profiling. It would also ensure that potential U.S. citizens negatively affected by residual impacts of the program are provided relief so that they can continue to enrich our great Nation.

Closing Remarks:

Thank you in advance for your time and attention to this matter. Should you have any questions, you may contact Ms. Sara Najjar-Wilson, President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (on 202-244-2990, or at, 1732 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20007; or Ms. Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Clinical Professor and Director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights at Penn State Dickinson School of Law (on 814-865-3823, or at, Penn State Law, 121C Lewis Katz Building, University Park, PA 16802.

Finally, we respectfully request that we be provided with an update on your Department’s review of the program.


Sara Najjar-Wilson, President, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)

David W. Leopold, President, American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)

Dr. James Zogby, President, Arab American Institute (AAI)

Ali Noorani, Executive Director, National Immigration Forum (NIF)

Margaret Huang, Executive Director, Rights Working Group (RWG)

Deepa Iyer, Executive Director, South Asian American Leading Together (SAALT)

Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Clinical Professor and Director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights, Penn State Dickinson School of Law [xiv]


Arif Alikhan, DHS Assistant Secretary for Policy Development

David Heyman, DHS Assistant Secretary for Policy

Juliette Kayyem, DHS Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Programs

David Martin, DHS Principal Deputy General Counsel

Esther Olavarria, DHS Assistant Secretary for Policy

Margo Schlanger, DHS Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

[i] See Press Release, Am.-Arab Anti-Discrimination Comm., ADC Cautiously Welcomes Revised TSA Policy (Apr. 2, 2010), available at; Press Release, Rts. Working Group, Rights Working Group Commends DHS’ Announcement to Rescind Fourteen Country Protocol (Apr. 2, 2010), available at; Press Release, S. Asian Ams. Leading Together, New Airport Screening Policies (Apr. 2, 2010), available at

[ii] Suspending the 30-Day and Annual Interview Requirements from the Special Registration Process for Certain Nonimmigrants, 68 Fed. Reg. 67578 (Dec. 2, 2003).

[iii] Id.

[iv] See Am.-Arab Anti-Discrimination Comm. & Penn St. U.’s Dickinson Sch. L. Ctr. For Immigrants’ Rts. NSEERS: The Consequences of America’s Efforts to Secure Its Borders 21 (2009), available at [hereinafter NSEERS Report].

[v] NSEERS registrants filed such incidents and reports with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

[vi] See e.g., Posting of Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia to Race Matters, (Nov. 19, 2009). “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.”

[vii] 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), available at

[viii] Off. Inspector Gen., Dep’t Homeland Sec., Revised Annual Performance Plan For FY 2010 56-57 (2010), available at The audit will be specifically geared towards “(1) determin[ing] the effectiveness of NSEERS as a counterterror tool, focusing on the utility of the information collected, the uses to which that information has been put by DHS, and positive outcomes; (2) review[ing] the impact of NSEERS on the targeted communities; and (3) evaluat[ing] the degree to which NSEERS objectives could be met using other DHS data systems, specifically US-VISIT.”

[ix] See NSEERS Report, supra note iv, at 6-7.

[x] Posting of Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia to Race Matters, (Nov. 19, 2009).

[xi] Id.

[xii] See, e.g.; Memo from Doris Meissner, Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, HQOPP 50/4 (Nov. 17, 2000).

[xiii] See NSEERS Report, supra note iv, at 6-7.

[xiv] Affiliation listed for informational purposes only.

Jul 19, 2010

“I understand that the US needs to protect its border, but NSEERS is not the way to carry this out.”

I am a Canadian citizen and have been living in Canada for the last fifteen years or so. I used to be an Indonesian citizen, but got that citizenship automatically revoked upon receiving my Canadian citizenship, as Indonesia does not recognize dual citizenship.

I currently live in a Canadian city close to the American border. Though I am now a Canadian citizen, I still endure NSEERS simply because I was born in Indonesia.

I have visited the US many times since I first arrived in Canada in 1995, be it for business reasons or tourism. I do not have any family members in the US, and the longest period I have ever stayed in the US lasted two weeks, during a holiday.

Since the enactment of NSEERS, I have been poorly treated every single time I visit the US.

NSEERS Incidents

· In 2006, I was admitted to the NSEERS program. I was then a Canadian permanent resident, but because I still retained my Indonesian passport, I was constantly being pulled aside when I crossed the border. I had to join the NSEERS program, although I had been in and out of the US many times before then. At first, I thought NSEERS would only require the standard fingerprinting and picture-taking as my other visits entailed. I was wrong; NSEERS required much more than that. I was asked about my parents, their dates of birth, what I do in Canada, my travel history and pattern, among many other questions. I get asked these questions every single time I enter the US. To make matters worse, the exit procedure is also not a pleasant experience.

· In April 2007, when I was still an Indonesian citizen but still a Canadian permanent resident, I had to go across the border to pick up an automotive part because the owner would only send it within the US. As expected, I was pulled aside when crossing and asked to proceed to secondary processing. Assuming that it would only take a short time, I proceeded with the interview and the rest of the requirements. Prior to 9/11, the crossing that used to take a mere 30 minutes now took almost four hours. That day, something was wrong; the officer either lacked in training to process NSEERS or the computer system was not working. The officer could not find my one and only Finger Identification Number (FIN)—which is assigned to every single NSEERS registrant upon registration. The interviewing officer had to start my registration procedure from the beginning and I was issued a new FIN number. To make the matter worse, there was no bathroom in the area where I was waiting for four hours, and that was a torture of a different level.

The next few times, I entered the US was through a different border crossing and, per usual, it took a long time to get processed at the entry and exit point. This happened even after I became a Canadian citizen, and I no longer hold an Indonesian passport.

· On April 18, 2010, I entered the US for the first time since I became a Canadian citizen. I was pulled aside for secondary questioning, but I was told by the supervising officer that I do not need to be fingerprinted since I am now a Canadian citizen.

· However, on June 23, 2010, I decided to go visit Point Roberts, WA, and was stopped for secondary screening. I was asked to go through NSEERS even though I had my Canadian passport and was told just a few months earlier that I would not have to endure NSEERS. When I complained to the officer, he told me he could not do anything and that he had been ordered to do so.

Now, if I do choose to come to the US via different modes of transportation, I will run into the following NSEERS related problems:

  1. If I choose to enter the US by bus, the bus is unlikely to wait for me if the processing takes a few hours. Moreover, if I exit the US by bus, I would be violating NSEERS’ rules because the bus would just drive through the Canadian border, which would make me unable to be processed at the designated exit point. Failure to exit properly would create problems the next time I try to enter the US.
  2. If I choose to exit the US by train, I would again be violating NSEERS’ rules because the train will only stop at the Canadian destination. At that destination, I would go through Canadian customs, but not through the standard NSEERS exit procedures at the US Border. Failure to exit properly would create problems the next time I try to enter the US.
  3. If I choose to fly in or connect to a different flight in the US, the extra processing time would increase my chances of missing my connecting flight. The extra fees and time cannot be attributed to the US Customs and Border Protection because it is not their problem that I was pulled aside for being subjected to NSEERS.

In a sense, NSEERS has stopped me from visiting America for business reasons or tourism. I enjoyed visiting the US before NSEERS was implemented, but a short trip is no longer worth the trouble of spending four hours at the border to be processed under NSEERS, despite being a Canadian citizen.


the name is fictitious to preserve anonymity.

Jun 30, 2010

Dear Advocates:

There is an important, unique and pressing opportunity to comment on the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) in response to the May 5, 2010 Notice Published in the Federal Register (FR), Vol. 75, No. 86 (75 FR 24721) pertaining to NSEERS. THE DEADLINE IS NEXT WEEK ON JULY 6TH.

Click here to download the MODEL COMMENT prepared by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) in response to the Notice. Also, click here to download a copy of the federal register publication.

This model comment may be adapted for groups and individuals who wish to respond to an important information request re: burden of NSEERS. While the language of the Notice may seem ministerial, it presents an important and unique opportunity to educate and highlight the monetary and human costs of the NSEERS program, and press for its termination.


Mr. Joseph M. Gerhart, Chief, Records Management Branch

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

500 12th Street, S.W., Room 3138

Washington, DC 20024


If you have any stories regarding NSEERS registrants, please do not hesitate to share them with us. This will enhance our advocacy efforts to terminate NSEERS.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me ( or 202-244-2990) and Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia ( or 814-865-3823), Clinical Professor and Director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights at Penn State Dickinson School of Law.

All the best,


ADC Continues to Call for the Termination of NSEERS

Washington, DC | June 29, 2010 | | The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) today submitted detailed comments in response to the May 5, 2010 Notice, Published in the Federal Register (FR), Vol. 75, No. 86 (75 FR 24721) pertaining to the National Security Entry Exit Registration System (NSEERS). In its comments, ADC unequivocally reaffirmed its long standing position that NSEERS must be terminated and that NSEERS-related regulations be repealed. You can read ADC's comments by clicking here.

Implemented after 9/11 as a counterterrorism tool, and built on a discriminatory structure targeting non-immigrants from Arab, Muslim and South Asian countries, NSEERS has not only been ineffective for counterterrorism purposes, but also has had a negative impact on governmental outreach efforts with these communities. The actual practical utility of the program has been called into question, and is scheduled to be audited by the Office of Inspector General within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before the end of 2010. The program also continues to burden both DHS and the registrants with unnecessary and extra costs.

Eight years after the implementation of the program, governmental information on NSEERS continues to be shockingly inaccurate, as evidenced in the May 5, 2010, Notice. ADC calls on the Obama Administration to end the shame of NSEERS, shift away from policies solely based on national origin and religious profiling tactics, and provide relief for well-intentioned individuals adversely affected by the program.

More Information about ADC's Advocacy on NSEERS:

To read about general developments on NSEERS, please see the report on NSEERS issued last year by ADC and the Center for Immigrants' Rights at Penn State's Dickinson School of Law. ADC also has developed a blog the Race Matters Blog or "EndNSEERS" blog; and the Revised Annual Performance planof the Office of Inspector General discussing its plan for auditing NSEERS by the end of 2010 (pages 56-57).

Legal problems related to NSEERS? ADC Legal Department offers Pro Bono Assistance

If you have legal problems as a result of NSEERS, please do not hesitate to contact the ADC Legal Department for pro bono assistance. You can reach the ADC Legal Department by, or calling 202-244-2990.

May 28, 2010

NSEERS and Arizona’s Anti-Immigrant Law: What’s the Connection?

By Priya Murthy, Esq. Policy Director at South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

You’ve probably heard about Arizona’s recent anti-immigrant legislation signed into law in late April. Under the new policy, police are required to determine the immigration status of any one that they stop, detain, or arrest. In addition, it also allows race to be used as a factor in determining whether someone is in the country unlawfully and makes it a crime to not carry your immigration papers.

What does this have to do with the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), a post-9/11 initiative instituted by the federal government requiring certain male nationals of predominantly Arab and Muslim-majority countries, including Bangladesh and Pakistan, to register with the government? The connections run deeper than you may first think.

First off, it’s probably no coincidence that both policies share the same chief architect and proponent, Kris Kobach. While at the Department of Justice in the wake of 9/11, he spearheaded efforts within the federal government that established the NSEERS program. In the years that passed, he began assisting state and local lawmakers in drafting, defending, and implementing anti-immigrant policies in Pennsylvania, Missouri, and, most recently, Arizona.

While sharing the same “inventor” is disturbing enough, the real similarities between the two policies become clear when you look at their impact on communities. Profiling is the result of both NSEERS and the Arizona law. Whether it is requiring individuals to register with the government simply because of their religion or national origin or allowing police to check the immigration status of anyone who appears “foreign”, the discrimination borne by communities of color is evident.

Communities that have been affected by profiling (including African-Americans, Arabs, Asians, Latinos, Muslims, Sikhs, and South Asians), know all too well that such policies diminish trust with law enforcement and undermine public safety. As a result of NSEERS, witnesses and victims of crimes (such as domestic violence, hate crimes, and even national security threats) were reluctant to reach out to police for assistance, and the Arizona law stands to have the same repercussions. At the same time, there is no evidence that either program will achieve the purported goal of keeping this country any safer.

Which is why it’s no surprise that organizations that have worked with communities affected by NSEERS and other post-9/11 policies resulting in profiling have come out against the Arizona law. Two Arizona-based organizations, Arizona South Asians for Safe Families and the local chapter of theMuslim American Society joined a lawsuit, filed by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and theAsian American Justice Center, challenging the new law’s constitutionality. National civil and immigrant rights organizations advocating on behalf of post-9/11 affected communities have also expressed concerns about the Arizona law as well, including the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Rights Working Group, Muslim Public Affairs Council, and South Asian Americans Leading Together. Our communities know that profiling is wrong - whether it happens because of NSEERS or because of Arizona’s law, which is we need to stand together against policies that perpetuate it.

Mar 5, 2010

The Time for National Healing Begins Now

Deepa Iyer, SAALT's Executive Director

Looking ahead to 9/11/2011: The Time for National Healing Begins Now

In mid-February, people around the country marked the National Day of Remembrance to acknowledge the impact of Executive Order 9066, which led to the internment of 120,000 Japanese American citizens and residents during World War II on the basis of their national origin and ethnicity. It has been over 65 years since Executive Order 9066 was implemented, and yet, it seems that our leaders continue to make policy decisions rooted in many of the same faulty assumptions and fear tactics on which Executive Order 9066 was based.

Since September 11, 2001, South Asians, Arab Americans, and Muslims have become the latest targets of suspicion in the United States and in many European countries. In every context - the workplace, the school yard, the airport and the borders, and even in places of worship - community members have been reporting increased levels of harassment, bullying, and surveillance.

These experiences are not limited to the private sector. South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) and other civil rights organizations have long documented the pattern of government-sponsored policies that specifically target individuals who are affiliated with certain countries or religious faiths (primarily Muslim). In the days after September 11th, the United States government began to utilize immigration law and courts as well as interrogation and detention practices based on national security justifications in order to identify, target and hold countless South Asians, Arab Americans and Muslims.

The policies enacted bear important-sounding names - special interest detainees; special registration or NSEERS -but the impact has been nothing short of devastating: families being torn apart; civil rights and liberties being denied even in the justice system; deportations ranging in the thousands; and neighborhood landscapes in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and other metropolitan areas forever altered.

These policies are not limited to the months and years immediately after September 11, 2001. Most recently, after the terrorism attempt on board a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day 2009, the Transportation Security Administration issued a set of standards subjecting passengers traveling to the United States from 14 countries to heightened scrutiny screenings. These standards clear the way for the profiling of individuals based simply on their ethnicity, religion and country of origin. We know from studies of traffic stops and drug-related enforcement that racial profiling is not a useful means of identifying criminal behavior, and that relying upon behavior profiles might be more effective. In the case of the airport security standards implemented in January of this year, the government is again casting a wide net while relying upon the discretion of airport security staff to enforce the new guidelines with little, if any, oversight.

Almost ten years since September 11th, our country is still struggling to come to grips with the assumptions that lay behind Executive Order 9066. It is time for our country's leaders and policymakers to move away from misguided policies that lead to the targeting of communities for no reason other than the country from which they come or the religions they practice.
Nearly fifty years after the implementation of Executive Order 1066, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 and acknowledged the grave injustices that were perpetrated on Japanese Americans during World War II.

Let's not wait fifty years to recognize the impact of post 9/11 policies on our communities and our country. The Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice and other civil rights components of federal government agencies can play important roles in reviewing and rescinding many of the policies implemented after 9/11. As we come up on the ten-year anniversary of September 11th in 2011, Congress and the President can lead the way towards national healing and a return to our country's fundamental values by supporting measures and practices that will acknowledge and rectify the injustices of the past ten years.

The movement towards national healing must begin now.

Cross-posted from Race-Talk.

Jan 27, 2010

Press Release: AAI, ADC and MPAC Meet with Attorney General Holder to Discuss Profiling; Encourage Engagement

WASHINGTON – Tuesday, January 26—Executives of the Arab American Institute (AAI), American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), met with Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday (January 25) to discuss issues of concern to the Arab American and Muslim communities.

Leaders spoke with Attorney General Holder about several controversial policies developed under the 2003 Department of Justice Guidance on Profiling, which include several loopholes allowing for widespread profiling based on race, ethnicity, religion and national origin. Among the topics discussed were the 2008 Investigative Operational Guidelines (DIOGs), disclosures in the 2010 Inspector General Report on FBI data collection of identified “communities of interest”, the use of informants in terrorism cases, and the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), and PATRIOT Act reauthorization.

Representatives from the Arab American Institute (AAI), the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) stressed the importance of continued dialogue and additional efforts to promote partnerships between local communities and law enforcement.

James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute (AAI) said: “It is the national security loophole in the 2003 Attorney General guidelines on profiling that has provided the legal cover for many of the policies put in place during the previous Administration, including the round ups of thousands of Arab and Muslim immigrants targeted for ‘special registration’ and the 2008 Mukasey guidelines for the FBI. As has been repeatedly demonstrated, profiling is ineffective, wastes precious law enforcement resources, and alienates American communities eager to assist in keeping our country safe and secure.”

Mary Rose Oakar, President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), said: “We urged the Attorney General to repeal the 2008 Department of Justice FBIGuidelines that were put into effect in the last month of the Bush Administration and asked him to assist in repealing the NSEERS program, which targets young men from Arab and Muslim countries.”

Salam Al-Marayati, Executive Director of MPAC, said: “Problematic polices over the past 8 years have lead to a chilling effect in our community. We encourage the DOJ to address some of these very pertinent issues to ensure respect for the rule of law and security policies that work”

AAI, ADC, and MPAC appreciate the opportunity to address these concerns with Attorney General Holder and look forward to working with the Department of Justice on substantive policy reform.

Targeting Needles or Adding More Hay?: Airport Profiling, 'Countries of Interest', and American Security

On January 11, the Arab American Institute hosted a Hill briefing where the Department of Homeland Security's newest changes in airport security were discussed.

The briefing included perspectives and recommendations from experts on national security, civil liberties, and the ethnic American experience and featured:

Michael German: Policy Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Jumana Musa: Policy Director, Rights Working Group (RWG)

Amardeep Singh: Director of Programs and Advocacy, Sikh Coalition

Moderated by Dr. James Zogby: President, Arab American Institute

For more information and to watch the briefing, visit:

Jan 11, 2010

Profiling is back..!

Airport profiling is back, with a vengeance. In the aftermath of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's failed effort to bring down Northwest Flight 253 on December 25, the White House swung into action. President Barack Obama addressed the nation on three separate occasions, and ordered two comprehensive reviews of policy and practices in an effort to determine what broke down in airport security and inter-agency intelligence co-operation. He also instituted a number of new (and not so new) directives designed to provide greater security.

Many of these directives were focused on ensuring that various intelligence and law enforcement agencies were working together, as had been mandated by post 9/11 reforms. The President and others in the administration were deeply troubled by reports of system wide inertia, and some bureaucratic resistance to change, that had left "dots" unconnected, allowing Abdulmuttab to board a plane to the US, unimpeded.

Eight years ago reforms were instituted so as to ensure such breakdowns in intelligence sharing did not occur again. Now the President, clearly upset by what he called an "unacceptable" breakdown, was insisting that it be done. This initiative was well received.

Not so well received, on the other hand, were reports that the administration had reinstated a form of country-specific airport profiling, targeting passengers travelling from, through, or holding passports from 14 countries (13 of which are majority Muslim, and Cuba). Early reports indicate that passengers from these countries are being singled out for intense secondary screening involving both discomfort and delay.

What is most troubling is not just the discriminatory intent behind this singling out of Muslim majority nations, and the inconvenience and resentment it will create among their citizens toward the US. More to the point is that profiling of this sort has been used, on at least two occasions in the past, and been found wanting.

In the mid-1990s the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implemented country-specific profiling and also subjective profiling (in which airport personnel singled out people who looked Arab or Muslim for pre-boarding screening). Thousands were harassed and in some cases humiliated with no net gain in security. When I testified before a Congressional committee investigating this practice and urged the committee to inquire from the FAA whether or not these practices had ever caught, detained or found suspicion of terrorist activities-the FAA was unable to provide evidence of even a single instance where the programme had produced a result.

Post 9/11, the Bush administration, under the leadership of then Attorney General John Ashcroft, put in place the National Special Entry and Exit Registration System (NSEERS), once again almost exclusively targeting Arab and Muslim immigrants and non-immigrant visitors to the US. Not a single terrorist was apprehended by this programme. What NSEERS did do, on the other hand, was make entry to the US more burdensome and unwelcoming, creating a clear sense among Muslims worldwide that they were being discriminated against.

The question that now should be posed to the Obama administration is "if airport profiling has been tried twice and failed, without contributing to making the country more secure, then why is it being reinstituted once again?"

For example, in its current manifestation, travellers from 14 countries will be targeted, with no provision made for travellers from countries not on the list. So, all Lebanese will be targeted, but Richard Reid (the failed "shoe bomber", who holds UK citizenship, will not be screened). Secondly, as the saying goes, "when looking for a needle in a haystack, adding hay to the stack only makes the job more difficult."

Discriminatory profiling of this sort damages national security in another way. If the purpose of Al Qaeda, in organising these attacks, is to create panic and deepen the divide between Muslims worldwide and the US, the resentment created by a massive profiling regime plays right into their hands.

What law enforcement professionals propose instead is "evidence-based, targeted, and narrowly tailored investigations based on individualised suspicion" - in other words, good old fashioned police work.

When the two reviews ordered by the President have been completed, and the gaps in intelligence sharing have been closed, a review of "profiling", its use and abuse, is in order.