Entry-Exit Registration System, United States National Security
The U.S. National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NEERS) is a program whereby persons whose nationality identifies them as a possible security risk are required to submit to control processes governed by the U.S. Department of Justice. Established in June, 2002, the system is a response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the increased awareness of terrorism and homeland security that emerged in their wake. Despite these concerns, some critics have charged that NEERS is unconstitutional.
On June 5, 2002, the Justice Department introduced the new system that focused on citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Syria. In addition, "certain nationals of other countries whom the State Department and the INS [Immigration and Naturalization Service] determine to be an elevated national security risk" would be placed under the program, which required these individuals to undergo fingerprinting, photographing, and registration. Exit controls built into the system would make it easier for lawenforcement officials to monitor foreign nationals as to the length of their visas, and to ensure the removal of those who had overstayed theirs.
In the first year, NEERS would track some 100,000 foreigners, but over time it would be expanded to include the more than 35 million who visit the United States every year. Though the program's original regulations made little reference to gender, it was clear that males from teen age to middle age were the focus. By early 2003, this had been spelled out in regulations that cited males 16 and over from some 25 countries.
Almost immediately, the program invoked the ire of groups representing civil liberties interests, foreigners, or other constituencies. In December, 2002, the Financial Times reported that some 700 men and boys in southern California had been detained for several days on suspicion of criminal activity. Such actions, the British paper warned, could deter foreign nationals from registering with the program.
This was one legitimate concern with the program that law-abiding foreigners would register, while those for whom NEERS was created would manage to avoid the system. Some workers fled to other countries, as the Washington Post showed in a report on Pakistanis making their way north to Canada—only to be met with an unfriendly reception there. As for the claim that the program unfairly singled out Middle Easterners or Muslims, defenders of NEERS pointed out at least three-quarters of the terrorist attacks worldwide over the past quarter-century— including the most violent attack in September, 2001, had been perpetrated by males from the Islamic world.
█ FURTHER READING:
Brown, DeNeen L. "Pakistanis Find Cool Reception in Canada." Washington Post. (March 19, 2003): A24.
Lardner, George, Jr. "Congress Funds INS Registration System but Demands Details." Washington Post. (February 15, 2003): A18.
Parkes, Christopher. "Anti-Terror Programme in U.S. Runs into Controversy." Financial Times. (December 20, 2002): 8.
Attorney General Prepared Remarks on the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System. U.S. Department of Justice. < http://www.usdoj.gov/ag/speeches/2002/060502agpreparedremarks.htm > (March 24, 2003).
Fact Sheet: National Security Entry-Exit Registration System. U.S. Department of State International Information Programs. < http://usinfo.state.gov/topical/pol/terror/02060509.htm > (March 24, 2003).
National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NEERS). < http://fpc.state.gov/16739.htm > (March 24, 2003).