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National media turns to Penn State Law to help understand Trump’s ‘Muslim registry’

UNIVERSITY PARK -- As media and public scrutiny of president-elect Donald Trump’s proposed “Muslim registry” intensifies, a 2012 report from the Penn State Law Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic has become an important part of the national dialogue surrounding this controversial issue.

“The NSEERS Effect: A Decade of Racial Profiling, Fear, and Secrecy”—which, in recent days, has been cited by the New York Times, CNN, Vox, Bloomberg News, and the Christian Science Monitor—examines the Bush administration policy called National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) that created a “special registration” that targeted individuals from predominately Muslim countries.

“NSEERS served as a tool that allowed the government to systematically target Arabs, Middle Easterners, Muslims, and South Asians from designated countries for enhanced scrutiny,” the report reads. “The most controversial piece of NSEERS required nonimmigrant males who were 16 years of age and older from 25 specific countries to register at local immigration offices for fingerprinting, photographs, and lengthy, invasive interrogations.”

The report, prepared under the direction of Penn State Law professor and Immigrants’ Rights Clinic director Shoba Wadhia, has been used as a point of reference by many outlets in the national media to understand the legal framework and historical context of the Trump administration’s proposed Muslim registry since details of the proposal began emerging in the past week from potential Secretary of Homeland Security Kris Kobach.

Although the NSEERS program is not currently in place, the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic report states that the regulatory framework that allowed the program to operate was never dismantled—meaning the “ineffective, discriminatory program” could easily be resurrected and put back in place.

This conclusion, as well as the findings of a similar 2009 report from the clinic, are increasingly relevant as Kobach has proposed that the Department of Homeland Security “update and reintroduce the NSEERs screening and tracking system” as part of his leaked “Department of Homeland Security Kobach Strategic Plan for First 265 Days.”

Kobach was also involved in the creation and implementation of NSEERS, making the Penn State Law reports on the program a valuable addition to ongoing analysis of this developing proposal.

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