Dec 16, 2011

Canceling Stay, U.S. Orders 72 Indonesians in New Jersey to Leave

December 15, 2011
(Originally Posted in The New York Times December 6, 2011)

Prosecutorial Discretion and Post 9/11 by Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia

December 15, 2011
(Originally Published on December 8, 2011)

On December 6, the New York Times reported about the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to furnish some 72 Indonesians living in New Jersey with one-way plane tickets to Indonesia, cancelling supervision orders they had been previously issued by DHS. “Prosecutorial discretion” refers to law enforcement’s authority to decide whether or not to impose the laws against a party, and DHS’s decision to cancel the supervision orders reflects one form of this discretion. For more than thirty years, the immigration agency has utilized prosecutorial discretion to balance its finite resources and also recognize the compelling humanitarian issues faced by certain noncitizens living in the United States. DHS’ decision to deport these Indonesians despite a long-time residence, family and professional ties in the United States and no criminal histories is puzzling and inconsistent with the DHS’ own policy. Some of the Indonesians facing deportation entered the United States on valid visas and registered under a controversial post 9/11 program (Download NSEERSexamples) known as “special registration” or the “National Security Entry and Exit Registration System” (NSEERS). The NSEERS program was created in the wake of 9/11 and designed to find future terrorists by interrogating, fingerprinting and photographing certain foreign nationals admitted into the United States on temporary visas. The NSEERS program was expanded to reach certain visa holders in the United States who were men of certain ages and from a list of 25 Muslim-majority countries (including Indonesia) designated by the government—the program was controversial because it targeted people based on characteristics Americans would ordinarily consider unacceptable (nationality, sex and religion) and was implemented without proper resources or safeguards. In exchange for their compliance with the NSEERS program, thousands of registrants were detained, denied access to a lawyer and/or served with charging papers for a deportation hearing. Recognizing the program’s harsh human consequences and minimal national security benefit (terrorists do not voluntarily report themselves to the government), the DHS suspended portions of the NSEERs program in 2003 and this past April, published a rule that effectively terminated the program for nationals and citizens categorically subject to NSEERS. As illustrated by the story of the Indonesian community in New Jersey, the NSEERs program continues to affect many families who have lived in the United States for now more than 10 years, been gainfully employed, built families and/or contributed in meaningful ways to the United States. Without a full repeal of the NSEERS program and formal relief for those unjustly targeted it is critical that DHS exercise prosecutorial discretion favorably towards those affected by NSEERS.

Immigration Law Expert Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia Welcomes NSEERS Policy Change

December 15, 2011

Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, a clinical professor and director of Penn State's Center for Immigrants' Rights has worked with advocacy groups to demonstrate the "discriminatory and duplicative" natue of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). The Deparment of Homeland Security announced that it will suspend the policy which is welcome news to Professor Wadhia. Produced in collaboration with the American-Arab Antidiscrimination Committee, the Center developed a report, "NSEERS: The Consequences of Efforts to Secure Its Borders," which provided the most comprehensive overview of the program and analyzed how NSEERS cases were handled in courts throughout the country. It also chronicled the real impact of NSEERS on the Arab, Muslim, and South Asian communities and their respective American families and proposed recommendations, most notably the termination of NSEERS by DHS.

Jul 19, 2011

9/11 Registration and the Morton Memo by Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia

9/11 Registration and the Morton Memo by Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia

On June 17, 2011, Immigration Enforcement chief Head John Morton issued an important policy memo on the use of prosecutorial discretion in immigration matters. Prosecutorial discretion authorizes immigration officers and attorneys to channel their limited enforcement resources towards the most dangerous, while placing sympathetic cases involving individuals with favorable qualities like full-time fathers, serious medical conditions, long-time employees and students with strong ties to the U.S. on hold. The use of prosecutorial discretion dates back to the 1970s, but Morton’s new memo is significant because it affirms the equities agents should consider in its discretion, empowers ICE attorneys to drop charges in low priority cases, and encourages ICE to consider prosecutorial discretion without waiting for an attorney to file a request.

So what does the Morton Memo mean for the Muslim men and boys caught up in the 9/11 dragnet called special registration? Shortly after 9/11, former Attorney General Ashcroft announced and later regulated a special registration program in which individuals were fingerprinted, photographed and interrogated by local immigration officers at airports and local immigration offices. The program was controversial from the start by attempting to find potential terrorists by religious and nationality-based profiling. The program was also riddled with other due process concerns ranging from the lack of notice (who reads the Federal Register with their breakfast?), hurdles for lawyers denied access to these registrations, and overbroad criminal and immigration consequences for non-compliance. Controversy turned to chaos as thousands of men who voluntary reported were detained, served deportation papers and removed in exchange for their compliance. Ironically, the agency’s decision to place 13,000-plus law-abiding teenagers and young men in removal proceedings because of an NSEERS snafu or status violation was a great abuse of prosecutorial discretion.

While the NSEERS program was scaled back in 2003 and most recently this past April, the problems associated with NSEERS linger nearly ten years later. Imagine, a now 25 year old married to a U.S. citizen or working for a U.S. employer who perhaps had no knowledge about registration at the ripe age of 16 and as consequence is denied a green card because he “failed” to register under NSEERS. Imagine, a now breadwinner and primary caretaker to elderly parents or U.S. citizen living in the U.S. who is facing removal because he was afraid to register under NSEERS based on the detentions and deportation faced by his neighbors or relatives. And consider, Mohammed G. Azam, a Bangladeshi man with compelling qualities who was placed in removal proceeding after complying with NSEERS in 2003 and only after years of counsel from a top immigration lawyer and an article in the New York Times, is no longer a priority for DHS.

Short of a complete repeal of the punishments associated with these registrations, it is critical that ICE apply the Morton Memo on Prosecutorial Discretion favorably towards NSEERS branded people who have laid down roots in the U.S., built families, and contributed to the U.S. economy and in short, possess the equities listed in the Morton Memo.

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July 14, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink

Jun 30, 2011

Conference Call on NSEERS July 7, 2011

RWG Membership Conference Call: National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS)

Date: July 7th at 3:00 pm ET / 12:00 PT

Please join a call for RWG members on the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). Recently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the NSEERS program has been suspended. What does this announcement mean for our communities? This call will discuss how the announcement impacts the communities we work with, highlight available resources, and provide an update on on-going advocacy with the government to terminate NSEERS.


* Priya Murthy, South Asian Americans Leading Together
* Linda Sarsour, Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services / National Network for Arab American Communities
* Monami Maulik, Desis Rising Up and Moving
* Sameera Hafiz, Rights Working Group (Moderator)

To Register email:

Jun 2, 2011

Case Stemming From Antiterrorism Registry Is Dropped

Case Stemming From Antiterrorism Registry Is Dropped

Immigration authorities announced on Wednesday that they will drop their case against Mohammed G. Azam, a young Bangladeshi man who had been fighting deportation since 2003, when he registered with a special post-9/11 program for Muslims.

In April, the government ended the “special registration” program, which critics had said amounted to racial profiling, but Mr. Azam was one of perhaps hundreds still caught in its net.

Dozens of local elected officials rallied behind Mr. Azam, a manager at a local Häagen Dazs store, calling him a “model citizen.” The New York Times published an article about Mr. Azam’s case on Tuesday.

“I just cannot explain how happy I am,” Mr. Azam said after hearing the news. “My mom can’t stop crying. She’s so happy; she can’t stop crying.”

Mr. Azam, 26, has been stuck in immigration law limbo since he was a teenager.

His father, Mohammed Hossain, applied for permanent resident status in 2001, when Mr. Azam was 16. But Mr. Hossain was not approved until 2007, when his son was 22. Immigration officials argued that Mr. Azam was too old to benefit from his father’s new status, and they pressed forward in their efforts to deport him.

In February, an immigration judge ruled that the case against Mr. Azam should be dropped, arguing that he should not be penalized for the government’s delay in processing his father’s application.

Immigration authorities had been preparing an appeal, but on Wednesday, Luis M. Martinez, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman, said they would drop the case.

Nancy Morawetz, of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at the New York University School of Law, which represents Mr. Azam, said, “This just lifts an enormous burden.”

The Manhattan borough president, Scott M. Stringer, who took up Mr. Azam’s cause, said work still remained.

“It doesn’t end with this case,” he said. “There are countless others who find themselves in similar situations.”


May 31, 2011

A Post-9/11 Registration Effort Ends, but Not Its Effects

A Post-9/11 Registration Effort Ends, but Not Its Effects
Published: May 30, 2011

In the jittery months after the 9/11 attacks, the federal government created a program that required thousands of Arab and Muslim men to register with the authorities, in an effort to uncover terror links and immigration violations.

After complaints that the practice, known as special registration, amounted to racial profiling, the Homeland Security Department scaled back the program in 2003, and ended it late last month, saying it “no longer provides a unique security value.”

But for Mohammed G. Azam, a 26-year-old Bangladeshi native who came to the United States when he was 9, its legacy lives on. When he registered in Manhattan in 2003, officials began deportation proceedings, and now, eight years and numerous hearings later, his case has outlasted the program.

Mr. Azam is one of hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of people still caught in the program’s net, immigration experts say.

More than two dozen New York elected officials have rallied behind Mr. Azam, who came to this country as a child and overstayed his visa. A soft-spoken man known to his friends as Johnny, Mr. Azam manages a Häagen Dazs store at the South Street Seaport and wants to open a Subway sandwich franchise. He graduated from Monroe College in the Bronx in 2009.

“I have big plans,” he said. “But I’m always scared that I’m going to be deported.”

The Manhattan borough president, Scott M. Stringer, along with a host of state legislators, sent a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials last week praising Mr. Azam as “a model citizen” who should be allowed to stay indefinitely.

Most important, Mr. Azam has also gained the support of Gabriel C. Videla, an immigration judge who ruled in February that his deportation case be thrown out and that he be granted permanent resident status.

The immigration agency appealed that decision, just as it did in 2007 when another judge threw out the case because of violations committed by its agents. Agency officials declined to comment, a spokesman said.

The registration program uncovered little intelligence — 11 of the more than 85,000 men who came forward in the first year were found to have ties to terrorism — but it caught thousands of people who had been living in the country illegally, leading to a significant wave of deportations.

“It was a kind of knee-jerk targeting that took place in the wake of Sept. 11,” said Nancy Morawetz, co-director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at the New York University School of Law, which represents Mr. Azam.

Mr. Azam came to the authorities’ attention by registering, as was required, but his case now hinges on unrelated questions about his age, and the cost of bureaucratic delay.

His father, Mohammed Hossain, applied for permanent resident status in 2001, when Mr. Azam was 16, through a program that allowed immigrants to pay a $1,000 fine and clear their records of visa-related violations. Because of an extensive backlog, Mr. Hossain was not approved until 2007, when his son was 22 — an adult in the eyes of immigration officials.

Mr. Hossain was able to sponsor his wife and daughter for permanent resident status, but Mr. Azam was denied because, immigration authorities contended, he was now too old to benefit from his father’s new status.

His lawyers called that argument unfair. “If they had processed this quickly, he would be a permanent resident today,” Ms. Morawetz said.

Judge Videla agreed, ruling in February that Mr. Azam should not be penalized for “the extraordinary administrative delays” that stalled his father’s application for so long. The judge cited a 2002 law Congress passed to help keep families together; it allows relatives of visa applicants to retain their status as children, even if they are over 21 by the time their case is considered.

But immigration authorities said they would appeal that ruling, pressing forward with their effort to deport Mr. Azam.

Mr. Stringer, among others, is asking officials to drop the appeal. “He is what our country is all about,” he said of Mr. Azam. “For ICE people to dig in their heels, I think, is just outrageous.”

Mr. Azam has managed to stay sanguine, despite the grinding worry and the personal costs — the case will keep him from attending his sister’s wedding this summer in Bangladesh.

“One-third of my life has gone to this immigration process,” he said. “I grew up here. This is my country.”

A version of this article appeared in print on May 31, 2011, on page A18 of the New York edition with the headline: A Post-9/11 Registration Effort Ends, but Not Its Effects..

May 18, 2011

Letter to DHS Secretary Regarding Unfinished Work Around NSEERS

May 17, 2011

The Honorable Janet Napolitano Secretary

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Secretary Napolitano:

The undersigned organizations are writing to request a meeting with you and your delegates to discuss the residual populations affected by the National Security Entry-Exit System (NSEERS) program, and possible remedies for such individuals. In light of the President’s Executive Order directing agencies to review existing regulations that “may be outmoded, ineffective, insufficient or excessively burdensome, and to modify, streamline, expand, or repeal them in accordance with what has been learned,” we are also recommending that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) repeal the regulations that govern NSEERS or special registration. We appreciate DHS’ recent rule published in the Federal Register1 suspending the NSEERS program for nationals and citizens from 25 predominantly-Muslim countries previously required to register. However, we believe the intent and spirit of the rule (characterized as “effectively ending [the] registration process” by DHS itself2) requires DHS to implement a specific policy reprieving the scores of individuals who are currently or have been affected by NSEERS; to provide information on databases of individuals who participated in the program; and to consider eliminating the underlying regulatory framework entirely.

As you know, the NSEERS program was controversial from its inception in 2002 because of its discriminatory nature, lack of notice and procedures by DHS about the program, and the inability

of DHS to process NSEERS cases. The program’s ineffectiveness as a national security tool was highlighted by DHS itself when it confirmed, “As threats to the United States evolve, DHS seeks to identify specific individuals and actions that pose specific threats, rather than focusing on more general designations of groups of individuals, such as country of origin.”3

A less publicized impact of the NSEERS program are the scores of individuals who currently are “stuck” in the immigration process, have been denied a benefit by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), have been denied admission, placed in removal proceedings, and/or ordered removed due to an NSEERS-related issue. The impact of NSEERS on individuals and their families is striking when considering the number of individuals who are happily married to a U.S. citizen, gainfully employed and/or squarely eligible for removal relief, but who are treated differently and unequally because of an NSEERS issue. To this end, we believe that DHS must issue guidance that calls for the favorable exercise of discretion for individuals facing an immigration consequence as a result of NSEERS. This guidance must be adopted by USCIS, CBP and ICE to ensure that individuals who are seeking a benefit, may be eligible for a benefit, facing removal, or seeking admission into the U.S. are treated similarly and favorably.

Also attached is a report issued by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and Penn State Dickinson Law School’s Immigrant Rights Clinic, NSEERS: The Consequences of America’s Efforts to Secure Its Borders” which illustrates the importance of addressing the residual impact of NSEERS and the impact that it continues to have on community members.

Thank you for your attention. If you have any questions, please contact Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia at

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Abed Ayoub

American Immigration Lawyers Association

Muslim Public Affairs Council

Penn State Law’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights, Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia*

Rights Working Group South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow, Priya Murthy

*affiliation listed for informational purposes only


cc: John Sandweg, Counselor to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary, DHS Mary Kate Whalen, Managing Counsel, Office of General Counsel, DHS David Heyman, Assistant Secretary, Office of Policy, DHS Margo Schlanger, Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, DHS

John Wagner, Executive Director, CBP Lori Scialabba, Deputy Director, CIS Beth Gibson, Assistant Deputy Director, ICE

1 “Removing Designated Countries from the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), 76 Federal Register 82 (April 28, 2011), pp.23830-23831. Available at 10305.pdf.

2 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Press Office, “Fact Sheet: DHS Streamlines Collection of Data for Individuals Entering and Exiting the United States.” (April 27, 2011). Available at

3 Supra note 1, at 23830.

May 17, 2011


News Updates: NSEERS Rule

May 17, 2011- The U.S. government has ended a controversial counterterrorism program created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that required men living in the U.S. who came from mostly Muslim countries to register with federal authorities. Called NSEERS -- National Security Entry-Exit Registration System -- the program required registration, interviews and fingerprinting of male visitors 16 and older from Muslim nations as well as North Korea. The program targeted men entering the country as well as more than 80,000 men already in the U.S., about 1,000 of them from metro Detroit. Nearly 13,800 residents were further investigated, and 2,870 were later deported. But not a single case resulted in anyone being charged with terrorism -- a fact that experts say proves the program was a failure that unfairly harassed thousands. NSEERS did "not catch terrorists," said Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, a law professor at Penn State University who has extensively researched the program. "It was ineffective and alienating."

May 17, 2011- The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on April 28 that it would terminate the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), one of the most controversial immigration programs implemented in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

May 6, 2011- Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. government established a policy requiring men and boys from 25 countries - almost all Muslim, and all of them in Asia or Africa - to report for "special registration." Turns out it wasn't such a hot idea.


How the Hunt for Bin Laden Made U.S. Muslims and Immigrants Threats [Colorlines]

May 4, 2011- Ten years after Sept. 11, 2001, the animating target of the war on terror is dead, his body cast into the sea. A chapter is closed. Yet, in many communities here in the United States, it seemed the target was never just Osama bin Laden. For Arabs and Muslims in the U.S., and for those lumped carelessly together with them, the war on terrorism has not been an abstraction waged in far off lands, but a fight that’s engulfed communities right here at home.

May 3, 2011- After nine years of pressure from civil rights advocates, the Department of Homeland Security has quietly announced the end of NSEERS (National Security Entry/Exit Registration System, sometimes called Special Registration), one of the most explicitly racist, underreported initiatives in post-9/11 America, Colorlines reports.

Apr 28, 2011

DHS has made a move in the right direction by suspending the NSEERS program prospectively! Specifically, DHS posted a rule on the National Security Entry and Exit Program READ THE RULE. This major step by DHS follows nearly 10 years of advocacy and reaction by community members, NGOs, and leaders in Congress and DHS who made sure NSEERS remains a priority issue for the Administration. Effective April 28, the rule “de-lists” the citizens and nationals of countries subject to NSEERS. It is now critical that DHS use this rule to grant relief to those affected by NSEERS retrospectively. DHS must exercise discretion favorably for a program that even DHS has confirmed was controversial and ineffective. These individuals include fathers, breadwinners, husband and employees who have been stuck in legal limbo, placed in removal proceedings, denied admission and/or denied a green card or the ability to work because of NSEERS issues.
Please see below for the various blogposts and press statements by groups and individuals around new policy suspending NSEERS.

“Special Registration” Requirements Suspended: South Asian Network Welcomes This Partial Victory

May 2, 2011- On Thursday, April 28, 2011, the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) registration requirements process, also known as “Special Registration,” was suspended. Implemented by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2002, Special Registration was a counter-productive response to September 11th, 2001. From the start, South Asian Network (SAN) organized against the program, which served to split apart thousands families and break apart South Asian communities across the U.S. through detention and deportation.


April 28, 2011- The Department of Homeland Security announced it would suspend the controversial NSEERS (National Security Entry-Exit Registration System) program implemented in the wake of September 11, 2001, a move which had been advocated for by the Penn State Law Center for Immigrants’ Rights.

April 28, 2011- One of the most offensive post-9/11 anti-immigrant policies dreamed up by our federal government is finally gone. Yesterday, DHS announced the end of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), astate-sanctioned racial profiling program that wasted serious amounts of government resources while damaging our country’s reputation, and treating whole groups of people as “other” because of where they came from, not what they did.

Immigration Impact, DHS Removes Countries From Special Registration List, But Leaves Door Open for Future Placements
April 28, 2011- This week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it will remove all countries from theNational Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). Previously, nonimmigrant travelers from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen were forced to comply with special registration requirements, including providing fingerprints, a photograph, and any additional information required by DHS to DHS officials at the time the nonimmigrant applies for admission at a U.S. port of entry.

DRUM Welcomes Victory in Ending NSEERS and Calls for Accountability for Thousands of Muslim Families Already Torn Apart

April 28, 2011- After years of organizing to end one of the worst racial profiling policies, DRUM celebrates the suspension of the controversial National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) also known as 'Special Registrations' by the Department of Homeland Security yesterday. DRUM led the Coalition against Special Registrations in New York City and joined advocates across the country in campaigning to end the first phase started in 2002 wherein over 84,000 Muslim boys and men between the ages of 16 and 45 registered, leading to over 13,000 put into deportation proceedings based on civil immigration violations, and causing around 2,800 to be detained, all as a result of lawfully complying with the program. Thousands of families have been torn apart, jobs lost, and neighborhoods and communities devastated, many of which have still yet to recover. This massive and ineffective profiling campaign based on religion and ethnicity led to zero identifications and convictions of anyone associated with any cases of terrorism, but has come at extensive social, ethical, and economic costs.


April 27, 2011-
Dear Colleagues:

Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the elimination of the list of countries whose nationals have been subject to registration under the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS)—effectively ending the NSEERS registration process through the publication of a notice in the Federal Register.


Advocacy Organizations Welcome DHS Policy Change Regarding NSEERS
April 27, 2011-The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), and South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), along with the Arab American Institute (AAI), the National Immigration Forum (NIF) and theRights Working Group (RWG), welcome the decision by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to modify the National Security Entry Exit Registration System (NSEERS). According to DHS through a notice published in the Federal Register, effective tomorrow, nationals and citizens of countries currently subject to NSEERS are no longer required to register.

April 27, 2011- The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) welcomes the notice from the Department of Homeland Security that the agency will depopulate the country listings from its National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). The program required all temporary immigrants from 25 predominantly-Muslim countries to register their presence, fingerprints, and photographs with local immigration offices or officers at U.S. ports of entry. NSEERS, criticized for contributing to racial profiling and civil rights violations, was notorious for procedures that were unclear, underpublicized and difficult for individuals to follow.

April 27, 2011- The Department of Homeland Security today, in a long-overdue announcement, said it will indefinitely suspend the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). Instituted in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, NSEERS was a domestic immigration enforcement program targeting men and boys from predominantly Arab- and Muslim-majority nations for extraordinary registration requirements with DHS. The program was repeatedly condemned by the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as resulting in widespread profiling of tens of thousands of immigrants from Arab- and Muslim-majority countries.

April 27, 2011- The Muslim Public Affairs Council welcomes the indefinite suspension of the National Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) by the Department of Homeland Security(DHS). MPAC joins a coalition, which includes the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, South Asian Americans Leading Together, Rights Working Group, and others, in welcoming the change in DHS policy.

CAIR Welcomes DHS Decision to Drop NSEERS Program
April 27, 2011- A prominent national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization today welcomed a decision by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to effectively drop the controversial National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS).