Entry/exit registration ended

The Homeland Security Department has suspended formal interview requirements for individuals tracked under an entry/exit system, thus beginning to phase out the program.

DHS suspended the requirement for individuals, mostly Middle Eastern men, in the National Security Entry/Exit Registration system to re-register after 30 days and one year of being in the United States, officials said today. The interim rule suspending the regulation was published in the Federal Register, and allows for a 60-day comment period.

Certain visitors may still be registered in the system upon their arrival in the country, but they will no longer be required to report for interviews. DHS officials will still be able to require certain individuals to register in the future, when monitoring is deemed necessary, officials said.

The Justice Department started the system to track male visitors age 16 and older from 25 countries, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. It came under fire from civil liberties groups for tracking foreign nationals from only certain countries. It is being replaced by the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program, which officials will start to use in January 2004.

Officials had expected to fold the system into US-VISIT, which will track all foreign visitors. A system to track foreign students in the United States, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System will also be incorporated into US-VISIT.

"This change will allow us to focus our efforts on the implementation of US-VISIT while preserving our ability to interview some visitors when necessary," Asa Hutchinson, DHS' undersecretary for border and transportation security, said in a statement.

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