On Saturday afternoon of December 17, over a hundred audience members attended an informative forum at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Church titled “Registration Revived? A Teach-In on Resisting Muslim Registries.” Speakers at the event — organized by the Muslim American Women’s Policy Forum (MAWPF) — included Deepa Iyer and Dr. Maha Hilal.
Deepa Iyer, an author and former executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), led with remarks placing the current situation in its full post 9/11 context. In 2003, Bush Justice Department appointee Kris Kobach devised NSEERS (National Security Entry-Exit Registration System) to compel male immigrants over the age of 16 who were from Muslim-majority countries (from Iraq to Saudi Arabia and from Afghanistan to Bangladesh) to appear for registration at immigration facilities in their region.
Ms. Iyer recommended and played an excerpt from “Whose Children Are These?“, a 2004 documentary about three young people affected by a program that registered 83,000 residents — and deported 13,000, none for terror-related acts or conspiracies. Though bitterly opposed by American Muslim and civil rights activists, it took until 2011 to end registries under the program — but only by the ruse of whittling the list of countries of origin ‘qualifying’ for registry down to zero. NSEERS wasn’t so much dead as undead, ready to rise from its administrative grave when a different president came along — complete with documents ready to be dusted off.
And so here we are. As the next speaker, Dr. Maha Hilal — executive director, National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF) — pointed out, there are direct connections between a government’s willingness to model racial and ethnic profiling of this kind on a mass scale, and a culture’s willingness to tolerate and embrace it on the personal level — ranging from indifference to acts of hate and bias, to applause for them or worse. The theory — from federal offices to the street — becomes that Muslims are inherently predisposed to acts of violence, and should be treated with suspicion and hostility as a group.
Both speakers as well as local activists Noor Mir and Darakshan Raja urged the audience to help resist the revival of NSEERS in one or more of the following ways:
- Call your Members of Congress and tell them to call the White House with the message that President Obama must dismantle NSEERS while there’s still time. Call…
- Congressman and Senator-elect Chris Van Hollen: (301) 424-3501; (202) 225-5341
- Congressman John Delaney: (301) 926-0300; (202) 225-2721
- Congressman John Sarbanes: ;
- Congressman-elect Jamie Raskin: (301) 642-0668 (campaign office)
- Senator Ben Cardin: (301) 762-2974; (202) 224-4524
- Senator Barbara Mikulski: (410) 962-4510; (202) 224-4654
(Report how each conversation went here.)
- Educate others about the issue. Articles explaining NSEERS and how to stop its revival are linked throughout this blog post.
- Prepare to shift the narrative if a terror attack implicates some Muslims.
- Advocate briefings of local city and county councils on programs like NSEERS and “CVE” (countering violent extremism) programs that stigmatize Muslims.
- Organize your professional community, especially lawyers and policy makers.
- American Muslims should be ready to bring discussions to their friends, mosques, and communities.
Resources (compiled by MCCRC; input welcome):
- How Obama could make it much harder for Trump to build his “Muslim registry” (Lind, VOX, 12/1/2016)
- Obama urged to dismantle NSEERS visa tracking program (Muaddi, CNN, 11/23/2016)
- ADC Letter to Administration On behalf of Nearly 200 Organization Requesting Rescinding of NSEERS (ADC, 11/21/2016)
- Potential Trump Attorney General Created A Muslim Registry During The Bush Administration (Terkel, Huffington Post, 11/17/2016)
- Homeland Security Suspends Ineffective, Discriminatory Immigration Program (Rickerd, ACLU, 5/6/2011)
- Whose Children Are These? (documentary film web site, 2004)
- Local Advocacy Groups Forming ‘D.C. Justice For Muslims Coalition (Kurzius, DCist, 12/19/16)