Catholic organizations, faith groups glad to see end of Muslim registry

| Rhina Guidos | December 29, 2016 | 3 Comments

Catholic organizations and other faith groups say they are happy with the Obama administration’s last-minute decision to end a type of national Muslim registry.

The National Security Exit-Entry Registration System, known as NSEERS, began under the George W. Bush administration following the 9/11 attacks and asked that men from some countries in the Middle East register with the U.S. government when they arrived in the U.S. It continued during President Barack Obama’s two terms in office even as organizations, including Catholic groups, have long called for its demise.

A man near the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July holds a pack of chewing gum called ‘”Islamophobin.” The packaging attempts to bring attention to the issue of anti-Muslim attitudes in the United States. CNS photo/Justin Lane, EPA

In late December, weeks before his administration comes to a close, Obama announced that the program was ending under his watch.

“I’m glad the president took action to end a program that by all accounts wasn’t effective and undermined core American values,” said John Gehring, the Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, an advocacy group in Washington.

Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., known by the acronym CLINIC and based in Silver Spring, Maryland, said the decision was a victory.

“Not only was it discriminatory” and failed to lead to the capture of terrorists, said CLINIC Executive Director Jeanne Atkinson in a Dec. 22 news release, but also it broke apart families as people were deported, some for causes such as being a day late after having to tend to an emergency.

While the program asked that immigrants from North Korea also register, NSEERS “in effect targeted immigrant Muslims,” said Jordan Denari Duffner, a research fellow at Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative, which seeks to educate others about Islamophobia as well as raise awareness about prejudice and discrimination toward Muslims.

Some see the end of the registry as a way to make it difficult for an incoming Donald Trump administration to target Muslims through such a program but others warn that the president-elect’s public views during the campaign signal tough days ahead for Muslims in the country, with or without a registry.

“Throughout the campaign, and since, Trump and his advisers have demonstrated that they see the religion of Islam as a primary source of violence and terrorism,” said Duffner. “But they also want to avoid charges of religious discrimination. Things like NSEERS and ‘extreme vetting,’ rather than a ‘Muslim ban,’ allow Trump’s administration to still focus on Muslims without running into constitutional issues or a major public outcry.”

The president-elect campaigned by saying his “extreme vetting” of Muslims and other immigrants would provide a way to keep the country safe. The way Duffner sees it, what’s been referred to as extreme vetting “would operate in a similar way to NSEERS in that it would target Muslims in a non-explicit way. The immigration questionnaire that the Trump team has been discussing is based on anti-Muslim stereotypes. … The extreme vetting policy might sound more nuanced and acceptable than a Muslim ban but as it’s been discussed, it could have the same impact.”

So, even as groups hailed the decision, some said they would remain vigilant.

“People of faith and diverse religious leaders in pulpits across the country are now organizing to stand with Muslims and other vulnerable communities who feel threatened by President-elect Trump’s incoming administration,” said Gehring.

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  • Charles C.

    Sorry, but this only counts as a victory if one is really desperate to find something to applaud.

    First, contrary to the headline which the Catholic Spirit presents, the program was never a Muslim registry, it was a registry of people entering from various countries regardless of their religion.

    Second, the NSEERS program was stopped five and a half years ago. From the Department of Homeland Security website of May 2011:

    “DHS announced the removal of the list of countries whose nationals have been subject to registration under the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS)—effectively ending the NSEERS registration process through the publication of a notice in the Federal Register.”

    Third, a registry or information gathering program wasn’t stopped, it was improved and still exists. From the same article:

    “Since NSEERS was created, DHS has implemented several automated systems that capture arrival and/or exit information, making the manual entry of this data via the NSEERS registration process redundant, inefficient and unnecessary. The improved and expanded DHS and Department of State systems capture the same information for visitors, regardless of nationality.”

    So, tell me, why is ending NSEERS any different from Ford announcing that they will stop making Model Ts? The new system collects even more information and allows officials to access it more easily.

    What a misleading story.

    • Mole

      I stopped reading Catholic Spirit. Why? It is full of lies, and liberal agenda. Simply it is NOT Catholic.

  • Dominic Deus

    My fellow *agent provocateur* has done a good job ferreting out some of the facts and I commend him for it. Many website opinionists operate in a fact free zone, presuming that if they simply repeat themselves louder and louder, some readers will assume they are yelling the truth. Charles doesn’t do that. I draw some different conclusions from his facts but allow me to offer what I have learned due to Charles forcing me to actually do some research:

    He is correct in saying the program never described itself as a Muslim registry. Instead, was a registry that targeted at Muslim majority countries after 9/11, all of them in the Middle East, all of them overwhelmingly Muslim. It was designed to target Muslims without saying so. That, btw, was endorsed by Vice President Cheney.

    Charles is correct again in that five and a half years ago, meaning after it had been in effect for ten years,Homeland Security stopped entering people into the registry because it was a massive failure, had never resulted in a single conviction for terrorist related offenses produced very few apprehensions of any kind, and was impossible to work due to its dependence on face to face interviews. But NSEERS still existed; it just wasn’t getting any more data. It was lying there waiting for Donald Trump to resurrect it, which he said he would do.

    Homeland Security and State Department came up with a much better system, unrelated to NSEERS which they use to this day. They literally track millions travelers to the US by names, country of origin and departure, travel patterns and many more variables they will not disclose. They feel it is predictive and, as I understand it, have tested it to see if it will track known person of interest and it works. It is unaffected by President Obama doing away with NSEERS.

    Now, I want to point out that Charles only said “… this only counts as a victory if one is really desperate to find something to applaud.” He wasn’t otherwise critical. He just wants someone to “show him the money.” Fair enough. Welcome to the Bank of Dominic Deus! President Obama very quietly did away with all of polices and procedure, everything related to NSEERS. If the next President wants to implement “extreme screening” (Trump’s words) of Muslims, he will have together it passed by Congress. There is nothing left of NSEERS to resurrect. There…that’s the money.

    Now you might reasonably ask, “How is it that this Dominic Deus avatar guy can know this kind of stuff. First he’s a scriptural scholar, then physician but none of that sounds like expertise in national security.” Well, for one thing, I just researched it (as did Charles) a few minutes ago and you can too! And you should. Then there is the fact that I was an Army officer for well over twenty years and am retired therefrom. Honestly. I may as well just spill the rest of the beans–I was a federal law enforcement officer, too.

    None of this means you should believe anything I post. Be skeptical. Do your own research. Besides, I make a lot of mistakes.I was totally wrong on the weapons of mass destruction thing.