May 17, 2012

New York Times - Today

May 15, 2012
Source: The Reformed Church of Highland Park

Dear Church Family and Extended Supportive Community,

Today a very important article was published in the New York Times by Kirk Semple. The article "A Sanctuary Amid Fears of Persecution at Home" is on page A23 and can also be found online. Please share the article as widely as you can.>

The day of visitations in Washington was very effective. We visited 30 congressional offices and we believe we made some significant strides toward winning some hearts for this cause. In addition, the religious liberty commission of the National Council of Churches gave us many new contacts who may prove helpful.

Tomorrow, Friday, is the day when the General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America will visit our church. This is the first such visit since we've been pastors here. We will be holding a 1pm event that I hope you'll try hard to attend.

Saturday, from 2pm-7pm is our Family Freedom Festival. Also, it is the day for the debut showing of "Broken Asylum," a video that tells the story of our church's efforts around the family story of Harry and Yana. The movie will show at 3:30 and 7:30pm.

Your energy and love for our Indonesian brothers and sisters sustains me in this effort! Thanks and Peace, Pastor Seth

May 7, 2012

Rights Groups Continue to Call for Dismantling of NSEERS and Criticize Department of Homeland Security’s Refusal to Repudiate This Discriminatory Prog

Keith Rushing, Rights Working Group, 202.591.3305.
Nasreen Hosein, South Asian Americans Leading Together, 301.270.1855
Sandhya Bathija, American Civil Liberties Union, 202.675.2312
Ibrahim Hooper, Council on American-Islamic Relations, 202.744.7726
Kate Casa, National Network for Arab American Communities, 313.842.5119
Amardeep Singh, Sikh Coalition, 212.655.3095

May 7, 2012, Washington, D.C. –

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC), Rights Working Group, Sikh Coalition, and South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) express serious disappointment regarding the Obama administration’s announcement last month that it will not fully terminate the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), which, in the aftermath of September 11th, required certain nonimmigrant men from predominantly Muslim nations to register with the federal government. In addition, the administration has indicated that it will not provide redress to all people impacted by the discriminatory program.

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a memorandum about individuals impacted by the notorious NSEERS program. NSEERS was a counterproductive response to September 11th requiring certain non-immigrants to register at ports of entry and local immigration offices. Those required to register were from predominantly Arab, South Asian, or Muslim countries. The specifics of NSEERS revealed it to be a clear example of discriminatory and arbitrary profiling. The Obama administration has itself found that NSEERS “does not provide any increase in security.” DHS’ own Office of Inspector General has called for the full termination of NSEERS. In April 2011, DHS modified the program by “delisting” the countries whose nationals were subject to registration requirements, yet individuals still face harsh immigration consequences resulting from the program, including deportation and denial of immigration benefits for which they are otherwise eligible.

The administration’s most recent announcement on NSEERS did not fully terminate and dismantle the program. Instead, DHS offers limited relief to some individuals negatively impacted by this discriminatory program. Favorable consideration is limited to narrow circumstances, such as individuals who could not comply with the program because they received inaccurate information from the government or those who were hospitalized. The memorandum does not address relief for the many individuals who complied with the program but were found to lack immigration status nor those who were deported through secret proceedings that took place without due process of law.

“The recent issuance of the NSEERS memo by DHS misses the mark and fails to provide redress to all individuals who have been harmed by NSEERS,” stated Margaret Huang, executive director of Rights Working Group. “Further, the announcement leaves the program intact and states that information obtained through the discriminatory NSEERS program can continue to be used against individuals. The administration, yet again, has failed to address unconstitutional profiling based on race, religion, ethnicity and national origin,” continued Huang.

“While the initial measures outlined in this policy could potentially benefit a subset of individuals affected by NSEERS, it does not go nearly far enough. Despite the advocacy community’s years of engagement with DHS on NSEERS, the new announcement reveals the administration’s failure to grasp the widespread fear this program caused in South Asian, Arab, Middle Eastern and Muslim communities in America and how NSEERS has torn families apart,” stated Deepa Iyer, Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).

The memorandum does not directly grant relief or benefits to individuals impacted by NSEERS but rather asks DHS agencies to develop guidance to implement the memorandum. The groups call on DHS to engage with advocacy organizations in developing this guidance to ensure that it grants meaningful relief. The groups also urge DHS to dismantle NSEERS completely and discontinue using information obtained through the program.


May 4, 2012

DHS Releases Long-Awaited Memo on Controversial 9/11 Program

05/03/2012, 5:15 pm
Written by:
Cross Posted from American Immigration Lawyers Association:
By Denyse Sabagh, AILA Past President, and Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, AILA Amicus Committee

NSEERS (National Security Entry and Exit Registration System) was a controversial tracking program launched in the wake of 9/11 and aimed at visitors from predominantly Arab and Muslim countries. Those subject to NSEERS or special registration were fingerprinted, photographed and interrogated at ports of entry, inside a local immigration office and upon departure from the United States. The NSEERS program contained all of the features of bad policy, as it appeared to target individuals based on their religion and national origin; caused thousands of men to be placed in removal proceedings after complying with the program; and proved to be ineffective as a counter-terrorism tool.

Last month, the DHS released a memorandum to address the scores of people who did not register under NSEERS when they were supposed to. It clarifies that innocent individuals who failed to previously register should not suffer immigration consequences, such as a denial of a green card or a deportation charge. The memo could help a countless number of young men who have laid down roots, built families and/or been steadily employed in the United States but whose immigration status is vulnerable because of an NSEERS issue.

The April Memo provides that individuals who “willfully” failed to register under NSEERS in the past may be subject to immigration violations. It goes to elucidate the definition of willful as “deliberate, voluntary, or intentional, as distinguished from that which was involuntary, unintentional, or otherwise reasonably excusable”; instructs that the burden of proving that his registration was not willful is on the non-citizen (which may not be satisfied if failure to comply was based on fear or inconvenience); and notes that even where an individual is found to have “willfully” failed to register, the agency may exercise prosecutorial discretion in accordance with its litany of memoranda on the topic.

Previous adjudications of “willful failure” did not give credence to the applicant’s statements such as “I was 16 years old when I entered, I could barely speak English and my family was not involved in the community, I did not know about special registration.” In some cases, applicants were not even asked the question “Why didn’t you register”? ICE took the passports and stamped them “willful failure” and told individuals that everything would be fine. Things were not fine and many people ended up in deportation. People’s lives have been damaged due to this program and it is critical that DHS conveys its intent clearly to rectify this to the field with training and specificity. Without it, even with the April Memo, the hoped for result will fail.

The April Memo is an encouraging step but what is ultimately needed is a termination of NSEERS and a clear policy that protects all people affected by NSEERS from immigration consequences unless DHS can prove that such protection is adverse to the public interest. The NSEERS program has brought more than a decade of fear and damage—the Department’s own Inspector General, civil rights and immigration advocates, and the private bar have all recommended that the NSEERS program be terminated.