WASHINGTON – Thousands of American Muslims and activists from rights groups marched on Monday, December 12, to the White House in an effort to persuade President Barack Obama to scrap anti-Muslim surveillance program before Donald Trump takes office.
“NSEERs was a completely failed counterterrorism tool,” Joanne Lin, legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told The Guardian on Monday, December 12.
“It was in effect for nearly a decade, but NSEERS didn’t yield a single terrorism conviction.
“Instead it alienated Muslim and Arab American communities around the country who saw their husbands, uncles, brothers appear for registration, for no reason than their nationality.”
Marching to the White House, protesters and activists from various organizations were expected to call on President Barak Obama to end for good the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NEERs) that has singled out Arabs and Muslims following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Leading progressive groups participating in the protest included the ACLU, MoveOn.org, Desis Rising Up & Moving (Drum) and CREDO.
The protest is being considered a last-ditch effort to convince Obama to end the surveillance program before President-Elect Donald Trump officially takes off in January.
The program, inducted by the Bush administration back in 2002, tracked men and boys entering and exiting the US from 25 countries, 24 of which were Muslim-majority countries like Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen.
It was suspended by Obama in 2011 after its value to counterterrorist agencies was called into question.
It was replaced by an upgraded system based on biometrics that allowed for the screening of all newcomers to the US, not just Muslims and Arabs, removing its discriminatory basis.
In 2012, the Department of Homeland Security’s own watchdog, the inspector general, issued a report calling for the program to be torn down. He found the Muslim database to be “unreliable” and “obsolete”, and concluded that DHS should “dismantle the vestiges of the program”.
The program was effectively halted by removing the names of the 25 targeted countries, but the regulatory framework of NSEERs was left standing.
Professor Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights clinic at the Pennsylvania State University, said, “The NSEERs program was counter-productive, discriminatory and costly. It was discredited by leaders across the board.”
Civil rights groups now fear that if Trump inherits it he could very easily start it back up simply by reinstating the country names into the system.
“It would put the responsibility for the registry squarely on the shoulders of the new administration. That’s why Obama should do the right thing and wipe this program clean,” Wadhia said.