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Religious groups to Obama: Dismantle immigration registry’s framework

A San Diego Harbor police officer chats with Homeland Security officers while on patrol at Lindbergh Field airport in San Diego, Calif., on July 1, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Mike Blake *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-MUSLIM-REGISTRY, originally transmitted on Nov. 22, 2016.

(RNS) Nearly 200 religious and civil rights groups are petitioning President Obama to dismantle the regulatory framework behind a Homeland Security program critics say discriminates against Muslims and Arabs.

President-elect Donald Trump has appointed one of the architects of the program, Kris Kobach, to his transition team. That and Trump’s own calls on the campaign trail for “extreme vetting” of immigrants have led some to believe that he will revive the National Security Exit-Entry Registration System.

Created in the aftermath of 9/11, NSEERS was effectively canceled by Obama in 2011. It had required certain noncitizens who came to the U.S. from 25 mostly Muslim-majority nations to register with immigration officials. Obama reduced the number of countries under NSEERS rules from 25 to zero. But the framework for the program remains.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Church World Service, the Anti-Defamation League and the Sikh Coalition are among the groups that sent a letter to Obama on Monday (Nov. 21) denouncing the program and warning against its future use.

“NSEERS was a discriminatory policy that ran counter to the fundamental American values of fairness and equal protection,” the letter reads. “Rescinding the regulatory framework of the program will ensure that our nation does not target communities based on national origin and faith in the future.”

Abed Ayoub, of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said the letter is not so much focused on what Trump might do, but on what Obama — still in power — can do now.

“We’ve been asking for this for 14 years,” he said. “We don’t know what the next administration is going to do.”

If Trump tries to revive a registry, “we’ll fight that as well,” Ayoub said.

Some legal scholars are arguing that such a revival would be unconstitutional.

Other signatories of the letter include the American Muslim Advisory Council, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Refugee & Immigration Ministries, the Franciscan Action Network, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.

About the author

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe has been a national reporter for RNS since 2011. Previously she covered government and politics as a daily reporter at the Charlotte Observer and The State (Columbia, S.C.)

35 Comments

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  • Since white nationalist christians make up the more dangerous demographic when it comes to murder, property destruction and terrorism in this nation, a registry of them makes far more sense. 🙂

    The best way to fight radical individuals is not to radicalize entire communities.

  • Apparatus of discrimination/repression are never limited to one given group. Once they are in place, it makes no difference who uses them.

    The Gestapo was organized using Stalin’s KGB as a model. In East Germany, it was extremely easy to transition from the Gestapo to the Stasi (even the names had a similar origin). In most cases the same people worked from one to the other.

  • I don’t think we have much to be worried about when it comes to citizens of countries run by white nationalists coming here to blow people up. As for homegrown white nationalists, we have investigative tools for background checks available that we don’t for foreigners coming here.

  • “I don’t think we have much to be worried about when it comes to citizens
    of countries run by white nationalists coming here to blow people up. ”

    Its not like they did ever that before. Oh wait they did from 1939-45. Killed millions of people doing so. They are doing so right now in Chechnya and the Ukraine.

    Homegrown white nationalists have killed far more people in terror attacks than Muslim extremists even including 9/11. Plus they don’t have to travel to blow people up. They are already here.

    Far more dangerous is their effect on the nation as a whole with political legitimacy. Islamicists can only kill people and break things here. White Nationalists in this nation seek to destroy our entire democratic way of life through a death of a thousand cuts. Through compromises and attacks on things such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, voting rights, creation of a surveillance state…

  • I am extremely skeptical of anything with CAIR’s fingerprints on it. They use every media opening to shame anyone that would question the backgrounds of Muslims coming into this country, even those from ISIS-controlled countries.Muslims in this country already don’t have much to whine about; they are safer here than in their home countries!

    The US Constitution is not a suicide pact. We have the right to know who’s coming here, whether they wish us well or ill. Since there are so many would-be refugees from Syria and surrounding war-torn countries, and yet no reliable ways to check the background checks on such would-be refugees, then we would be wise to leave intact any frameworks that exist, that could be easily commissioned to do the vetting of those who attempt to come with questionable credentials.

    We need to once again remind ourselves that entry into and residence here in the US in nobody’s RIGHT, except for bona fide US citizens! Thank goodness Donald Trump cares enough to warn us about the hazards we face with unvetted Muslim would-be immigrants. Barak Obama’s posture is to shame anybody who questions the backgrounds and motives of those who want to come here, as if this is somehow unpatriotic and unamerican!

  • “Muslims . . . are safer here than in their home countries!”

    Wow. Sable, don’t you think that’s a pretty low bar for the US of A? ‘Bring your businesses to America! We’re safer than Aleppo!’

    I’m not trying to be mean. It’s just funny.

  • Wow, somehow the wave of foreign fascist terrorists trying to enter the US in order to kill us in job lots didn’t make it into any of the history books I’ve read. Do you have any links to this wave of WWII domestic terrorism?

    And what is this wave of terrorist attacks by modern white nationalists that you speak of? Again, links please.

    Beyond that, how dare white nationalists seek to use legitimate political methods to advance their views of a proper society, string them up! That is the prerogative of the Left alone, right?

  • As I already asked, could you please link to evidence of this wave of homegrown fascist terrorism you speak of.

  • Those links don’t actually have the lists that would let us double-check their conclusions. So check out this site, latest update Oct. 15 2016: http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/terrorism/wrjp255a.html

    Besides the ones labelled left-wing, right-wing and Islamist terrorism, I also went through the ones labeled just terrorism and criminal, and I found four I put in the Islamist column and four in the right-wing column. With that, the totals are Islamist 121, right-wing 33 and left-wing 12 since 9-11.

  • That’s nice, but its not really on the point.

    Either way, it comes down to whether one is going to take useful action against terror threats or are you going to be hysterical and counter productive.

    Demonizing the entire Muslim faith, discriminating or singling out entire community for collective punishment, circumventing civil liberties, these are all things which make terrorism easier,not harder. It plays right into ISIS game plan. It is why such effort is put on their part to create fear or refugees, to silence Muslims critical of islsmicism and to encourage sweeping generalizations of the entire faith.

    Fundamentalists of all stripes never like to acknowledge that there is disagreement or difference in a faith. We see it here when Christians say that others aren’t “Biblical” or “not real”. It’s self serving nonsense.

  • You were the one that claimed that “[h]omegrown white nationalists have killed far more people in terror attacks than Muslim extremists,” and provided the links I looked at. Considering what I found, it’s pretty obvious that at the moment we have more reason to be concerned about Islamists than white nationalists.

    As for your condemnation of demonizing the entire Muslim faith, I agree. So let’s just make the prohibition generic — only those that are members of organizations or movements calling for the eventual overthrow of the Constitution. That would generally prohibit entry of Sunni and Shi’a would-be immigrants, though Sufis would generally be welcome and there might be individual Sunni and Shi’ite sects that reject the instruction in shari’a to prosecute Jihad until all the world is under Muslim political control and all religions that aren’t people of the Book eliminated.

  • What you found was a pedantic approach to how terrorism is being classified. You did nothing to show one thing or another.

    ” So let’s just make the prohibition generic — only those that are members of organizations or movements calling for the eventual overthrow of the Constitution”

    We already have that. It’s been in the Immigration and Naturalization Act from inception. Members of terrorist groups, secret policemen and autocratic party officials are not eligible for visas.

  • Right, 121 victims of Islamist terrorists versus 33 victims of right-wing terrorists since 9-11 means nothing, if you don’t like the facts just ignore them.

    And no, we don’t have that broad prohibition I’m suggesting. It would not just apply to secret policemen, but to any member of a foreign government calling for the overthrow of the Constitution; not just party officials, but all party members; not just members of terrorist groups, but all members of the sects or movements whose teachings provide the inspiration and justification of the terrorists seeking the overthrow of the Constitution.

  • You pointed out yourself that classification plays heavily into it. Fort Hood and San Bernardino could easily have been classified as mass shooting crimes but since the perpetrator is non white and Muslim it becomes considered terrorism. Yet Dylan Roof does not.

    What you are suggesting denotes a level of ignorance of our immigration system as it stands. It’s already there. That was my point.

  • Why can’t mass shooting crimes also be classified as terrorist attacks? After all, all that is necessary for a mass shooting is to rack up a high enough body count, motive and mental state of the murderer is irrelevant. In fact, terrorists WANT mass death, that’s the point.

    And no, our current immigration system does not cast as wide a net as what I called for. Or are you going to assert that most Sunnis and Shi’as are denied entry to the US because of their membership in a sect that teaches the overthrow of the Constitution in favor of the dominance of Islam? That before its collapse all members of the government of the USSR, publicly dedicated to the overthrow of all free governments to be replaced by Communism, were denied entry to the US?

  • So are you going to count Sandy Hook as a terrorist act? Un bloody likely?

    “And no, our current immigration system does not cast as wide a net as what I called for. ”

    Because on closer examination what you are calling for is paranoid nonsense. You are making a ridiculous claim that all people from majority sects of Islam seek the overthrow of democratic government. It’s not only patently untrue, it’s the kind of garbage which is a boon to extremists. By ceding the majority of the faith to the most vocal extremists you cut off resources which could combat them.

    Don’t bother giving me out of context Koran passages or pretend the entire faith follows it’s most extreme readings. That isn’t the same as having knowledge of a group or their beliefs. That’s what people do when they don’t want to know such things and want an easy excuse to demonize then. ALL religions with written scriptures have this sort of thing. It means nothing.

  • No, on the list Sandy Hook is properly labeled a criminal act rather than a terrorist attack. You have to separate the mentally disturbed from the sane but evil.

    And I don’t need to take Koran passages out of context or look at the most extreme readings, I just need to look at the statements about Jihad by the religion’s mainstream expositors and writings such as Reliance of the Traveler that have never been disavowed or reinterpreted. Currently it is those Muslims denying as a matter or principle the mandate to bring the entire world under the political dominance of Islam that are the extremists, though hopefully that will change in time.

    And what’s paranoid about refusing to allow those belonging to organizations or movements calling for the overthrow of the Constitution to move to the country? If they are so eager to move here, let them disavow their association with said organization or movement.

  • Semantical and pedantic differences.

    “And I don’t need to take Koran passages out of context or look at the most extreme readings, I just need to look at the statements about Jihad by the religion’s mainstream expositors and writings such as Reliance of the Traveler that have never been disavowed or reinterpreted.”

    You are not going to look at the most extreme readings, just the most extreme readings. You are essentially taking fundamentalist extremists at a level of credence which is far greater than what would be considered reasonable or widely accepted. Which was exactly what I expected from your prior posts. It makes it far easier for making ridiculous sweeping generalizations than bothering to figure out what 1.2 billion people probably believe. Exactly the sort of thing that works well with the terrorist game plan. You are aiding terrorists, not fighting them.

    “And what’s paranoid about refusing to allow those belonging to organizations or movements calling for the overthrow of the Constitution to move to the country? ”

    The fact that you attribute that an entire faith of 1.2 billion people, one belonging to a good number of Americans. Mostly because you are too lazy to actually figure out what they actually believe, nor would bother to care to.

  • “and yet no reliable ways to check the background checks on such would-be refugees”

    That is completely untrue. There has always been vetting of refugees. In many cases they can’t even enter the US before a good deal of vetting is done.

    Unlike any other immigrant visa, CIS puts refugees under a great deal of scrutiny because the status confers far more benefits than most immigrant visa categories, including permanent residence and citizenship possibility. The notion that terrorists would be coming to the US as refugees screams of ignorance of our immigration system. You are talking about the one group of people coming here who are under the most watchful eye by immigration because for the most part they are looking for reasons not to classify people as refugees. [It is also typical for people facing deportation/removal to claim refugee status, so a degree of skepticism is baked into the system on the subject]

  • Is that your new buzz phrase now whenever you can’t actually rebut an argument: “semantical and pedantic differences”? I doubt prosecutors would get away with that when defense attorneys argue for dismissal due to mental incompetency.

    As for “extreme readings,” this is from Reliance of the Traveler — one of the basic works of Shari’a for Sunnis, NOT an extremist work ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reliance_of_the_Traveller ):

    The caliph (o25) makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians (N: provided he has first invited them to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya, def: o11.4) — which is the significance of their paying it, not the money itself — while remaining in their ancestral religions) (O: and the war continues) until they become Muslim or else pay the non-Muslim poll tax (O: in accordance with the word of Allah Most High,

    “Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day and who forbid not what Allah and His
    messenger have forbidden — who do not practice the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book-until they pay the poll tax out of hand and are humbled” (Koran 9.29),

    the time and place for which is before the final descent of Jesus (upon whom be peace)….

    The caliph fights all other peoples until they become Muslim (O: because they are not a people with a Book, nor honored as such, and are not permitted to settle with paying the poll tax (jizya) ) (n: though according to the Hanafi school, peoples of all other religions, even idol worshippers, are permitted to live under the protection of the Islamic state if they either become Muslim or agree to pay the poll tax, the sole exceptions to which are apostates from Islam and idol worshippers who are Arabs, neither of whom has any choice but becoming Muslim (al-Hidaya sharh Bidaya al-mubtadi’ (y21), 6.48-49) ).

    And I already pointed out that Sufis generally reject this understanding of the universal mandate of Jihad, just as Sunnis and Shi’as generally accept it — they may not TALK about it if they can avoid it, but the don’t reject it, either.

    And so as I asked, why shouldn’t we refuse to allow people to settle in our country that belong to organizations and movements that call for the overthrow of our Constitution?

  • How about an old buzzword, bigot. You are relying entirely on a prejudicial sweeping generalization of a religion of a multitude of people, ethnicities and nationalities. You want to demonize a faith and think that it is going to be helpful for us all as a people or nation. If that isn’t a definition of a bigot, then nothing is.

    Copying and pasting out of context (and probably wildly inaccurate) block texts from an anti-Islam site is not going to impress me nor fool anyone into thinking you know a thing about the religion, its people or how its practiced. Its not like we all don’t see that kind of nonsense here on a regular basis.

    You want to make wild claims about an entire religion out of laziness, paranoia and panic. Seriously, do you have any contact with people of a Muslim America persuasion in real world context? You sound like someone who would go into apoplexy at the sight of someone in a hijab or if you see halal meats in a grocery store.

    You know what, you are right. All Muslims are secretly trying to kill us all and overthrow the government. Especially the lamb/chicken and rice guys all over Manhattan. They are using their spiced and salty products and the lethal combination of “white sauce” and sriacha to kill me through heightened blood pressure.

  • At this point I have to wonder if you’re even bothering to read my posts. Since when is Wikipedia an anti-Islam site? As for “wildly inaccurate,” the English translation of Reliance of the Traveler was done by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, an American Muslim scholar, and was “the first translation of a standard Islamic legal reference in a European language to be certified by Al-Azhar [University].” (This time you might want to actually check out the WIKIPEDIA link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Azhar_University )

    As for “sweeping generalization,” I’ve already pointed out several times that the Sufis generally reject this aspect of Shari’a held to by the other major groups within Islam. So no, I’m not saying that no Muslims should be allowed to immigrate to the US, just those that are members of the sects within Islam that still accept as standard doctrine the quote about Jihad that I posted or similar variations — which is, as best I can tell, most of them. If those sects reject that doctrine or if the would-be immigrants change to other sects that are more comfortable to live with, I see no reason why they shouldn’t be welcome here.

  • You are trying to pretend an entire religion is dedicated to the destruction of the democratic way of life. ISIS would agree with you. You are acting like an unpaid stooge of theirs. Good job.

  • That answers that, you aren’t bothering to read my posts. So there’s no point in continuing this, have yourself a merry Christmas season.

  • When you are going on and on about how the majority sects of Islam are somehow hell bent on destroying us all, it makes it impossible to take your point seriously. The same sort of thing is used for demonizing any religion.

    You are using a fairly standard form of skewed nonsense criticism of a religion. No better than Roy Hobs anti Semitic nonsense allegedly from the Talmud or Aragorn the Atheist’s New Testament quotes which extol sectarian violence and oppression.

    You are employing sweeping generalizations of over a billion people and engaging in panic mongering.

    Instead of being a bigoted hysteric, try to find out about the actual communities here. But that requires more effort than demonizing. I can see why you don’t bother.

  • Nope, I never said that the majority sects of Islam are hell bent on destroying us all, you still aren’t reading my posts. The percentage of Muslims that want to see Shari’a enforced varies wildly, from as high as 99% in Afghanistan to as low as 8% in Azerbaijan. But until it is explicitly rejected, Shari’a’s rules for Jihad as currently understood are like a landmine, always there to be stepped on by Muslims that choose to take it seriously. And when that happens, we get the Taliban and ISIS, 9/11 and the Paris attack and the Boston Marathon bombing.

  • “Those belonging to Shia and Sunni sects”. That covers the majority sects for Islam. Pretty much almost the entirety of the faith. Maybe you didn’t know that before you went on your little rant. Maybe you should have put more effort and research into getting basic facts straight. Or maybe you are just trying to backtrack from prior positions.

    I am reading your posts, but you are talking nonsense for the most part. Something far detached from facts or reality on the ground. I don’t ever care how people allegedly think when they are in an autocratic country. Popular opinion is not exactly as free commodity there. Religion is always a political tool where freedom is not there. “The percentage of Muslims..” assertion sounds like BS. You prefer sweeping generalizations to figuring out the situation.

    If you value the first amendment religious freedoms as they apply to all faiths, then you would not be talking about fears of a religious based domination of our laws and culture. But I find the people who most bring up nonsense about Sharia law being enforced here are the ones most likely to want their own version enacted but only object to the faith its based on.

    People making fearful talking about Sharia law in American Muslim communities are lying through their teeth. If you are already wiling to trash the first amendment out of a sense of security (which is really what you are advocating here), then you make it easier, not harder, for religious extremism to take root.

    Our immigration system already has sections and rules concerning those of a political bent towards seeking the overthrow of our government. We do not give religious tests for entry into this country, nor should ever do so. If you value religious freedom you would understand why.

  • If there are sects within the larger Shi’a and Sunni umbrellas that reject the duty laid down in shari’a to advance Jihad until all the world is under Muslim domination, I have no problem with allowing their adherents to move here. Likewise if there are Sufi sects that don’t reject that duty, I definitely have a problem with allowing them to move here. No, I’m not particularly worried that they’ll come to dominate our laws and culture — unlike some nations in Europe, any such domination could only be at a local level and constrained by state and federal laws and constitutions. To the extent they are able to advance their own culture within those limits, more power to them. What I am concerned about are more Bostons, Fort Hoods, San Bernardinos and Orlandos when followers of those sects that teach aggressive jihad take those teachings seriously.

  • You are making ridiculously sweeping generalizations here.

    Much like saying one should bar Catholics from the country because their sect demands fealty to a foreign monarch.

    Your characterization of those sects beliefs really only applies to its most extreme members. You are taking the ISIS propaganda line at face value. You are doing their work and don’t realize it at all. A person who is not a raging bigot or too lazy to figure out what is going on, would simply look to see if someone had association with Islamicist groups. A much smaller and more appropriate group. But you don’t want to do that. I don’t know if that reflects your ignorance or some measure of paranoia on your part.

    “What I am concerned about are more Bostons, Fort Hoods, San Bernardinos and Orlandos when followers of those sects that teach aggressive jihad take those teachings seriously”

    And yet you want to shred the constitution and enable terrorists by radicalising entire populations here. One thing various spree killings should have taught you through the years are that they are not really preventable. Not San Bernardino, nor Sandy Hook. You do not actually advocate combating terrorism. You really advocate aiding them. You advocate discrimination, radicalising whole communities, not just isolated crazies. You advocate compromises to civil liberties which can never really be reversed once done. Terrorists could not ask for more. It’s exactly what they want.

  • Good luck trying to convince people that God is just another foreign monarch.

    “Your characterization of those sects beliefs really only applies to its most extreme members.”

    If that’s the case, then the “moderate” sects should have no problem explicitly rejecting the teaching that it is the duty of Muslims to pursue the violent imposition of Muslim dominance on the entire world, and remove anything that says otherwise from their literature — prove that those “most extreme members” really are extreme, rather than the ones taking those sects’ teachings seriously. If they do, I have no problem allowing the members of those sects to move to the US.

  • And this begs the question, why was this not dismantled back in 2011 when the ACLU fought and won to get rid of it as it was ruled discriminatory. In other words, Obama used this tool willingly for 3 years, and only dismantles 1 month ago, after a ruling in 2011? Does that make sense to anyone?

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