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Obama scraps dormant post-9-11 registry targeting Muslim men before Donald Trump can renew it

In this Friday, Dec. 16, 2016 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington.
In this Friday, Dec. 16, 2016 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration said Thursday it is officially scrapping a post-9-11 requirement for immigrant men from predominantly Muslim countries to register with the federal government. The U.S. hasn’t been using the program since 2011, but a top immigration adviser to President-elect Donald Trump has spoken of renewing it.

The decision to end the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERs, comes amid growing international terror fears and Trump’s suggestions that he could ban Muslim immigrants from the United States. After a truck attack killed 12 in a Christmas market in Berlin this week, Trump told reporters, “You know my plans.”

The registration system launched about a year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, requiring men and boys from a variety of mostly Middle Eastern countries to register with the federal government upon their arrival in the United States. Such people already in the country had to register with immigration authorities inside the U.S.

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Registration, which also applied to immigrants from North Korea, included fingerprints and photographs. People also were required to notify the government if they changed addresses.

The administration will publish its decision in the Federal Register on Friday. The program had been widely derided by civil libertarians as an effort to profile people based on their race and religion.

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The program is “not only obsolete,” said Neema Hakim, spokeswoman for the Homeland Security Department, “its use would divert limited personnel and resources from more effective measures.”

Last month, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Trump immigration adviser during the campaign, said Trump should renew the program.

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Meeting with Trump in New York, Kobach carried a document labeled “Department of Homeland Security Kobach Strategic Plan for First 365 Days.” It listed an NSEERS reboot as the top priority. The document was visible in a photograph by The Associated Press.

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The list suggested the U.S. government “update and reintroduce” the program for all foreigners from “high-risk” areas.

Trump has also not publicly listed which countries may be subject to his possible travel ban or enhanced vetting.

Trump spokesman Jason Miller said the president-elect’s plans “might upset those with their heads stuck in the politically correct sand.” He added that Trump has been firm on a plan to suspend admission to the U.S. for people “from countries with high terrorism rates” and subject some others to strict vetting.

When the Obama administration abandoned the system in April 2011, it said a newer data collection program would be sufficient to collect biometric information for all foreigners coming into the country. At the time, more than 80,000 foreigners were registered.

 

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