By DANIEL HERATY
DEARBORN – A program meant to help keep the country secure after the Sept. 11 attacks has been eliminated, and members of the local Muslim community are glad to see it go.
The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, enacted in 2002 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, required all male visitors from Muslim countries and North Korea age 16 and older to be fingerprinted and register with federal authorities.
It was eliminated after the department removed the 25 countries from a list of nations in the Middle East and Africa. The announcement was made in April with a brief statement on the department’s website.
Attorney Tarek Baydoun said the program was unconstitutional, and that he is glad to see it go.
“It should have never been implemented,” he said. “It did not add any national security advantages. It played into the hands of those who say America is at war with Islam.”
Imad Hamad, Michigan Director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said the program led to the deportment of over 14,000 people, including citizens who registered and were deported anyway, as well as those who failed to register out of fear.
“Those who did not register continue to have cases pending,” he said. He said the program’s goal was to establish a clear documentation of citizens, but that documents were not updated.
With the program’s demise, he said, all charges pending against deportees should be eliminated. Hamad said Homeland Security is handling the cases individually, and that there is no timetable for the hearings. He doesn’t believe that’s fair.
“There should be an automatic drop of the charges,” he said. “It should mean they don’t have to pay the price.”
Hamad said he believes the program’s end was not announced with greater fanfare because of more pressing matters.
“The announcement came after the execution of bin Laden,” he said. “People were more focused on that type of news. Also, the debate was kept out of the public. The families never forgot about it.”
Hamad said he is glad to see the program go away, but that he understands why the program was put in place. However, he said, it used the wrong methods.
“The intention was to tighten security,” Hamad said. “But it used race, faith, origin and became ineffective and lost focus.
“It never caught the bad apples.”
(Daniel Heraty can be reached at [email protected].)