“We got punished by the government. At the registration, my family was abused and humiliated. We were put into deportation proceedings and later, my home was raided by immigration authorities, who took me, my husband, and my daughter into detention even though we had a pending asylum claim. My daughter and I were detained for eleven days, and my husband was detained for six months.”
That was MoveOn’s Iram Ali, describing the experience of an anonymous immigrant and her family under the Bush-era NSEERS program. She spoke to a crowd of 100 gathered near the White House, following a march from the Justice Dept. down the heart of Pennsylvania Avenue.
NSEERS was a non-citizen registration program concocted during the post-9/11 security crackdown. It faced rampant criticism from immigrants rights activists who flagged the program as a front for ethnic profiling, spreading fear and intolerance instead of its original aim of catching terrorists – which it never successfully did.
“Discriminatory enforcement is illegitimate and its effects must be corrected,” the ACLU said in May 2011, in its statement applauding the program’s indefinite suspension that April.
It’s 2016, and we now know that the next administration is mulling shoving NSEERS back on the table. In what form, nobody knows. It took a photographer with a particularly long lens to find out this was even part of the plan.
But coupled with Trump’s loud campaign rhetoric about selectively banning Muslim immigration “until we can figure out what the hell is going on,” immigrants impacted by NSEERS – the closest thing this country has ever had to a mandatory registry based on religion or ethnicity – are already mobilizing.
“We need president Obama to give us a fighting chance,” an activist said outside the Justice Department. “Dismantle the regulations – we must prevent a repeat of the special registration.”