December 22, 2016
The Obama administration is abolishing a national registry program created to track visitors from countries with active terrorist groups, a move likely intended to send a strong message to Donald Trump just weeks before he takes office, the New York Times reports.
The registry, officially called the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, was created after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but has not been in use since 2011.
President-elect Trump has suggested he was open to reviving the program and has even floated a wider national registry of all Muslims and potentially barring people from countries with a history of Islamist extremism from entering the country.
The Department of Homeland Security submitted a rule change for dismantling of the program, writing that it no longer helps security. The changes will take effect Friday.
“D.H.S. ceased use of NSEERS more than five years ago, after it was determined the program was redundant, inefficient and provided no increase in security,” Neema Hakim, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement.
Hakim said the program diverts personnel and resources from other areas that are more effective.
Civil liberties groups have long criticized the program.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee praised the move, calling the registry a “failed program rooted in discriminatory profiling.”
In a statement, the group said it has worked “tirelessly” in pushing DHS to dismantle the program.
“This is the right decision by [Homeland] Secretary [Jeh] Johnson. We commend him, and the Obama administration, for letting it be known that such registry programs are futile and have no place in our country,” said Abed Ayoub, the group’s legal and policy director.
“However the community cannot be at ease; the next administration has indicated that they will consider implementing similar programs. We will work twice as hard to protect our community and ensure such programs do not come to fruition.”
Kris Kobach, Kansas’s secretary of state and a member of Trump’s transition team, was photographed with a document recommending reintroducing the visitor registry program in the first year of Trump’s presidency.
“All aliens from high-risk areas are tracked,” the document said.
Trump has waffled on whether his administration would create a broader so-called Muslim registry, and he faced new questions about the proposal this week after the attack in Berlin.
Asked by reporters if he intends to set up a registry, he said: “You know my plans,” adding, “All along, I’ve been proven to be right, 100 percent correct.”