Muslim registration: Been there, done that


Photo by Alan Levine, published under Creative Commons license.

Register Muslims? Been there, done that. Yeah – for real. All you Facebook friends proclaiming that when the government requires registration of Muslims, you’ll go register, here’s the news flash from 2002.

The Migration Policy Institute described the program in a 2003 article:

“The Special Registration program, which was announced in November 2002 and officially launched in December 2002, requires all male foreign visitors, already in the U.S., aged 16 and older from specified countries to register at designated immigration offices within a given time period. This program, unlike the port-of-entry program that requires registration based on an elevated national security concern, depends on nationality-based criteria. To date, nationals from 25 countries have been identified to report to designated U.S. immigration offices to register. Except for North Korea, nearly all of the countries designated in Special Registration are predominantly Arab and Muslim. As of March 25, 2003, some 60,822 foreign visitors had registered through Special Registration.”

“Special Registration” was part of the National Security Entry Exit Registration System (NSEERS), which was implemented after 9/11.  “Special Registration” for noncitizens who were already inside the United States stopped after about a year, but other provisions of NSEERS continued until 2011. The program found almost no one with “links to terrorism,” but it did find many people with irregular immigration statuses. That resulted in tens of thousands of deportations.

According to The New Yorker, Trump’s “idea man” on immigration, Kris Kobach, helped to create NSEERS and Special Registration when he worked for the Bush Justice Department.

While heavily criticized, and the subject of many legal challenges, NSEERS ended before any of the challenges made it up to the Supreme Court:

“Although lawsuits were brought challenging the constitutionality of NSEERS, federal district courts around the country generally ruled in favor of the program. In 2008, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that DOJ had the authority to implement the program, and that its implementation was not unconstitutional. That decision was not appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

As for stopping terrorism – CNN reported on November 18, that NSEERS “didn’t result in a single terrorism conviction.” And, says CNN, Trump could restore it any time he wants:

“By taking all 25 countries off the NSEERS’ list, the DHS said it “effectively ended” the program. However, the structure remains.

“Furthermore, NSEERS was technically suspended because of administrative issues — not legal action or rights concerns. So there’s really nothing stopping Trump from adding countries to the list and reviving the program.”



About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet,, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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