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Statement by Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director, Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center

Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) applauds the Obama administration’s decision to dismantle the regulatory framework for the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). NSEERS is a reminder of a shameful period in U.S. history when our leaders, driven by fear, created a registry program that targeted individuals for immigration enforcement based on their countries of origin. Eliminating the remnants of that program honors American values and our nation’s obligation to preserve constitutional protections for all people.  

The NSEERS program is a blight on our nation's history. In the face of an incoming presidential administration that has promoted religious and racial profiling, NIJC will fight any efforts to selectively enforce laws to discriminate against members of any religion, race or ethnicity.

The government created the NSEERS program in the wake of the September 11th attacks. The most controversial aspect of the program targeted men from 25 countries that were predominantly Arab, Muslim and South Asian, requiring them to report to local immigration offices for fingerprinting and questioning. More than 80,000 men were registered and nearly 14,000 men placed in removal proceedings. There is no evidence that the NSEERS program resulted in a single terrorism-related conviction or increased public safety. Instead, the program devastated families and communities and compromised America’s values. Because of these failures, the Obama administration removed all 25 countries from the registration list in 2011. Dismantling the program reaffirms our government’s commitment to equal protection under the law.