DHS Removes All Countries from NSEERS13 May 2011
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a Federal Register notice on April 28, 2011, that removes all designated countries from the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), effective immediately. This decision was made due to the implementation of automated systems for the capture of entry and departure information which make NSEERS redundant. Thus, the lingering and somewhat onerous NSEERS requirements, such as departure of the foreign nationals from designated ports, have been eliminated.
Background on NSEERS after 9/11
NSEERS was created in 2002 by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), as a reaction to the events of September 11, 2001. The program was designed to record the arrivals and departures of nonimmigrants from specific designated countries. These nonimmigrants within the United States were subjected to registration requirements.
Countries Subject to NSEERS
The countries included were Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. NSEERS was implemented at ports of entry (POEs) on September 11, 2002, and the domestic call-in registration began on November 5, 2002.
Objectives of NSEERS to Provide Better Tracking
NSEERS was created during a time of extreme concern over national security. The program of registration was intended to provide for better tracking of the foreign nationals from the listed countries. The registration and fingerprinting of certain foreign nationals allowed for enhanced tracking of location and immigration status compliance, as well as background checks on those who were required to submit to the program.
Those Who Were Subject to NSEERS
The NSEERS program required registration of every foreign national from a designated country who was over 14 years of age and had remained in the United States for thirty days or more. Foreign nationals who were subject to NSEERS, had to register and be fingerprinted within thirty days of the time when their countries were added to the NSEERS list. Annual re-registrations were also required as part of the program.
Nonimmigrants who were nationals or citizens of the countries designated, who sought to enter the United States after the initiation of NSEERS, were required to provide fingerprints, photographs, and additional information at the time they applied for admission at the POE. Some nonimmigrants subject to NSEERS were required to report to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices in person to verify information by providing additional data or documents showing compliance with their status. All foreign nationals of the designated countries also had to depart through specified POEs.
Suspension of Certain Requirements Under NSEERS
As long-time readers may recall from from the news article NSEERS Registration Suspended (05.Dec.2003), available on MurthyDotCom, the DHS created a rule that suspended some parts of NSEERS and the USCIS explained the rule in a January 8, 2004 memo. The law was changed to suspend the automatic 30-day and annual re-registration requirements for foreign nationals who previously had registered under NSEERS.
Impact of NSEERS
More than 177,000 foreign nationals registered under NSEERS. Of these registrants, 13,799 were issued notices to appear (NTAs) in removal (deportation) proceedings, 2,870 people were detained, 23 were held in custody, and 143 criminals were found. Not all individuals who are issued NTAs are ultimately removed. Many advocates voiced opinions that NSEERS created racial profiling and discrimination against foreign nationals of predominantly Muslim countries.
Improvements in DHS’s Information-Collection Systems
The DHS established the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program (US-VISIT) in January 2004, which recorded the arrival and departure of foreign nationals, verified their identities, and biometrically compared travel documents. Most foreign nationals seeking admission to the United States must provide finger scans and digital photographs of themselves.
The DHS also requires the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to collect the manifest information for passengers and crew members entering and departing the United States by land and sea. There are strict time limits for sending the manifests electronically. Intelligence gathering regarding terrorist threats has evolved to allow for the identification of specific individuals, rather than generalizing groups by country of origin.
Although the NSEERS was a controversial program, it had many supporters, due to the global tensions at the time. Now, with international climate and the ability to track foreign nationals entering the United States, the usefulness of NSEERS has diminished.
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