Dec 16, 2011
(Originally Posted in The New York Times December 6, 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.
Jul 19, 2011
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
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: email@example.com
Jun 2, 2011
By SAM DOLNICK
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
By SAM DOLNICK
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
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. http://www.adc.org/PDF/nseerspaper.pdf
Thank you for your attention. If you have any questions, please contact Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2011/pdf/2011- 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 athttp://photos.state.gov/libraries/singapore/231771/PDFs/NSEERS.pdf
3 Supra note 1, at 23830.
May 17, 2011
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.