The post-election apocalypse has involved a long search for silver linings, but today Muslim Americans finally got a big break when the Obama administration announced that it is ending the highly controversial and discriminatory National Security Entry-Exit Registration Systems (NSEERS) program.
A statement from the Department of Homeland Security said that the removal of the program will be effective immediately.
“Although DHS retained the regulations that provide the NSEERS framework, subsequent experience has confirmed that NSEERS is obsolete, that deploying it would be inefficient and divert personnel and resources from alternative effective measures, and that the regulation authorizing NSEERS is unnecessary,” Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said.
The NSEERS program was developed by current Trump transition team member and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, along with a few other Justice Department staffers during the Bush Jr. Administration in 2002. While it was suspended in 2011 by President Barack Obama, the “visa accountability system” has survived multiple legal battles and risked revival until the Obama administration’s announcement today.
The completely unsurprising part? As a letter sent to President Obama from more than 50 Democratic representatives this month stated, “No known terrorism convictions have resulted from the program.”
The termination announcement comes as a huge blow to Trump’s plans for a “modified” Muslim registry, which Kobach accidentally leaked was likely going to be based on the NSEERS program. While the program wasn’t a direct registry, it did carefully target “foreign citizens and nationals” visiting the country from 25 different countries — 24 Muslim countries plus North Korea.
Now, with NSEERS dismantled, the Trump administration will have to start from scratch and waste valuable time having to reconstruct the program if it is to be used — giving civil rights advocates and Muslim allies plenty of time to brainstorm and organize resistance to the ludicrous plan.
This is just the latest setback to the Trump administration’s plans, given that tech giants Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Apple have already pledged not to help in building a brand new registry.
In general, it is nice to see President Obama take tangible action against the incoming administration’s dangerous and continued efforts to normalize bigotry. He has remained comparatively quiet since the election about the highly problematic president-elect, at times seeming to even give his successor a free pass, despite going after him during the campaign and at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner.
As we enter the final month of the Obama Administration, let’s hope this trend continues.