This blog will feature stories and current developments on the government’s special registration program, and immigration policies that treat people differently based on race, religion, or ethnicity. The goal is to educate the public about a little known program that continues to impact thousands of individuals and their families and motivate the government to reject programs that target foreign nationals for immigration enforcement on the basis of race, ethnicity, or religion.
HIGHLAND PARK — Some much-needed good news has been received by the Indonesian community and its supporters and it comes at the heels of yet another Indonesian immigrant finding sanctuary at a borough church rather than face deportation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
The New Jersey assembly approved a resolution urging federal officials to pass HR-3590 — the Indonesian Refugee Family Protection Act. If passed, the federal bill, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Frank J. Pallone Jr., D-N.J., will allow qualifying Indonesian immigrants the opportunity to reopen asylum claims that were denied solely for missing a one-year filing deadline.
In addition, U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., announced Friday that he will introduce a companion bill to HR-3590 in the U.S.Senate next week.
“These Indonesian families sought refuge in our country to keep their families safe from harm and religious persecution,” Lautenberg said in a news release. “America has a long history of protecting refugees from persecution and this legislation gives these families a chance to legally seek asylum and to continue contributing to our country.”
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, many Indonesian Christians came to the United States on tourist visas to escape religious persecution in their homeland.
At the request of the U.S. government, many of the Indonesians registered with the government under a program requiring the registration of non-citizen males from certain countries following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Following this registration, the government began deportation proceedings against some Indonesians who had overstayed their visas.
Many of these families have lived, worked, and paid taxes in the United States for years and now have children who are U.S. citizens. A number of these families have settled in areas surrounding Highland Park, where they have become a part of the community.
The Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, co-pastor of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, which has granted sanctuary to nine immigrants in danger of deportation, was grateful to legislators for their support.
“It’s a huge affirmation for us that our elected officials agree with the concerns that we are highlighting and that there is a real human rights concern for people we love deeply,’’ Kaper-Dale said. “These affirmations will make us push harder than ever. It show that legislators are taking notice.’’
The state’s legislative resolution was sponsored by Assemblyman Peter Barnes III, D-Middlesex, and Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr., D-Middlesex.
“Many of these individuals and families came to this country in the 1990’s to escape religious persecution and since then have become vibrant members of our community,’’ said Barnes, who visited the immigrants staying at the Reformed Church of Highland Park in May. “Deporting these people will sever families and cause a great deal of financial and other unforeseen problems for both them and our community.’’
Barnes said he believes the policy will protect friends and neighbors from being sent back to a place of unspeakable religious violence.
“We cannot in good conscience let our friends be sent back to a place where churches and homes are burned, lynching occurs and the penalty for being accused of blasphemy is death,’’ he said.
Congress of the United States Washington, DC 20515
Chair Rep. Judy Chu
Vice-Chair Rep. Madelene z. Bordallo
Whip Rep. Colleen Hanabusa
Chair Emeritus Rep. MichaelM. Honda
Sen. DanielK. Akaka Sen. DanielK. Inouye Rep. Xavier Becerra Rep. Hansen Clarke Rep. EniFaleomavaega Rep. AlGreen Rep. Mazie K. Hirono Rep. Barbara Lee Rep. Doris 0. Matsui Rep. Gregorio Sablan Rep. Bobby Scott
Rep. Karen Bass Rep. Howard Berman Rep. Gerald Connolly Rep. John Conyers, Jr. Rep. Joseph Crowley Rep. Susan Davis Rep. Bob Filner Rep. RaulM. Grijalva Rep. Janice Hahn Rep. Zoe Lofgren Rep. Carolyn Maloney Rep. Betty McCollum Rep. Jerry McNerney Rep. Grace Napolitano Rep. Charlie Rangel Rep. Laura Richardson Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard Rep. Linda SAnchez Rep. Loretta Sanchez Rep. Janice Schakowsky Rep. Adam Schiff Rep. Brad Sherman Rep. Adam Smith Rep. Jackie Speier Rep. Pete Stark Rep. Chris Van Hollen Rep. Lynn Woolsey
June 21, 2012
The Honorable Janet Napolitano Secretary of Homeland Security U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Dear Secretary Napolitano,
We, on behalf of the 43 Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), write to express concern about the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), which went into effect following the terrorist attacks of September l1th and primarily targeted Muslim and Arab visitors to the United States. The NSEERS program directly challenges our country's fundamental principles of fairness and equality and is based on the false assumption that people of a particular religion or nationality pose a greater national security risk and should be subject to profiling. This program harkens back to a dark day in our country's history where innocent people were interned based on their Japanese ancestry.
The NSEERS program was first applied to select visitors at ports of entry and later expanded to certain individuals already living in the United States. Specifically, the domestic portion of NSEERS required certain male visitors from 25 specified countries to register at local immigration offices for fingerprints, photographs and lengthy interrogations. All but one of the 25 specified countries was predominantly Muslim. According to statistics provided by the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, over 80,000 individuals registered under the program and more than 13,000 were placed in removal proceedings. At its height, the program cost over $10 million per year, 1 yet no terrorism convictions resulted from the program?
While the NSEERS program has undergone several changes since it was transferred to the Department in 2003, it still remains on the books today, available for resurrection when our country's national security policies aim to target a new group for discrimination.
In April of 2011, the Department announced that it was delisting the countries subject to registration under NSEERS, essentially suspending the program.3 However, the Department failed to address how the individuals impacted by the program would benefit from this policy shift.
In April of 2012, the Department issued a memorandum on NSEERS addressing this very question.4 The April 2012 memo calls for DHS personnel to determine whether or not an individual's noncompliance with NSEERS was "willfu1."5 Those determined to have willfully failed to comply with NSEERS may continue to face negative immigration consequences. According to the memo, willful noncompliance includes fear of immigration consequences. This reflects a complete lack of understanding of the widespread and palpable fear NSEERS caused as Arabs, Muslims, Middle Easterners, and South Asians saw members of their communities held in overcrowded jails, disappear in the middle of the night, and deported without due process. In addition, the memo places the burden of proving non-willful compliance on the individual, demonstrating a lack of accountability on the part of the Department regarding NSEERS and its reliance on discriminatory profiling. The memo also indicates that DHS can continue to use information obtained through this discriminatory program for various purposes.
We commend the Department on issuing this memo and making significant steps in addressing the residual impacts of NSEERS. However, we are disappointed by the glaring gaps in the memo and DHS' policy analysis on how to move forward. Specifically, the April 2012 Memo continues to leave the NSEERS infrastructure intact. In addition, the memo fails to address how all individuals impacted by the program will be treated. The memo focuses only on those who failed to comply with NSEERS, leaving unanswered the question of how those who complied with the program but continue to face negative immigration consequences. Third, the memo sets forth a narrow definition of non-willful noncompliance, citing extreme scenarios that will limit the ability for individuals to benefit from the memo. Finally, the memo states that DHS will continue using information obtained through this program.
The Department should revise its policy and the April 2012 memo to ensure that no individuals impacted by the program continue to face negative consequences solely as a result of NSEERS. The Department should also acknowledge how the program violates valued principles of fairness and equality and cease using data acquired through this tainted program. Most importantly, the Department should completely and fully dismantle NSEERS so that it is never resurrected. Notably, the Department's own Office of the Inspector General has called for the full termination of the program and has classified the data obtained through the program as unreliable.6
We urge the Department to immediately address these concerns about NSEERS and direct the components within DHS to act accordingly as it establishes implementing policies. Consistent with our country's commitment to equal protection under the law, DHS should work to end the last vestiges of NSEERS and ensure that no one in this country is subject to inappropriate profiling or discrimination. We look forward to your prompt response.
Sincerely, JUDY CHU Member of Congress CAPAC Chair
MIKE HONDA Member of Congress CAPAC Immigration Taskforce Chair
1 See Department of Homeland Security Office of lnspector General, Information Sharing on Foreign Nationals: Border Security (Redacted), February 2012 available at http://www.oig.dhs.gov/assets/Mgmt/2012/0IGr 12-39 Feb12.pdf at 10. 2 Doris Meissner and Donald Kerwin,DHS and Immigration:Taking Stock and Correcting Course available at www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/DHS Feb09.pdf. 3 Removing Designated Countries from the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), 76 Fed. Reg. 82, 23830-23831 (Apr. 28, 2011) available at https:ljwww.federalregister.gov/articles/2011/04/28/2011-10305/removing-designated-countries-from-national-security-entry-exit-registration-system-nseers! 4 See Memo on Department of Homeland Security Guidance on Treatment of Individuals Previously Subject to the Reporting and Registration Requirements on the National Security Entry Exit Registration System, April16, 2012 available at Senator Dick Durbin: Opening Statement at the Hearing on Ending Racial Profiling in America, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights (Apr. 2012), available at http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/pdf/12-4-17DurbinStatement.pdf. 5 See id. See also Denyse Sabagh and Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, DHS Releases Long-Awaired Memo on Controversial 9/11 Program, May 3, 2012 available at http:l/endnseers.blogspot.com/2012/05/dhs-releases-long awaited-memo-on.html. 6 See Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, Information Sharing on Foreign Nationals: Border Security (Redacted), February 2012 available at http://www.oig.dhs.gov/assets/Mgmt/2012/0IGr 12-39 Febl2.pdf.