DHS nixes obsolete, controversial foreign visitor registration program

Citing redundancies with automated systems, the Homeland Security Department has canceled a system for manually collecting detailed information about visitors from specific countries, according to a Federal Register notice (PDF) April 28.

DHS ended the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) because the department "has determined that recapturing [visitors'] data manually when a nonimmigrant is seeking admission to the United States is redundant and no longer provides any increase in security," according to the Federal Register notice signed by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology system and Customs and Border Protection's Advance Passenger Information System are two of the automated information collection systems that render NSEERS obsolete, the notice states.


Related story:

US-VISIT tests new approaches to exit system


That's good news for residents of 25 countries, all from Asia or Africa and nearly all of which are considered Muslim countries, who were required to comply with strict guidelines before traveling to or from the United States.

The Justice Department launched NSEERS in 2002 as part of the response to the 2001 terrorist attacks. The system required visitors from those countries to meet special requirements, such as providing fingerprints, a photograph and additional personal information, according to the notice. The program also restricted the ports of entry that visitors from those countries could use to enter or exit the United States.

The rules applied to visitors already in the country when Justice announced the program in a Federal Register notice in 2002. According to a column from the Kansas City Star's Mary Sanchez, the government did a poor job of spreading the word about the rules.

"Some people who were legally in the country later fell into trouble, charged with 'willfully' disobeying the order to register," Sanchez writes. "Many simply didn't know they were supposed to register. Later, they'd show up at an immigration office for another paperwork matter and found themselves accused and deportable for not registering."

In its recent Federal Register notice, DHS states that NSEERS is no longer necessary because the department "has refined its approach to identifying aliens posing a threat to the nation. As threats to the United States evolve, DHS seeks to identify specific individuals and actions that pose specific threats, rather than focusing on more general designations of groups or individuals, such as country of origin."

That point made NSEERS a target for civil rights activists during the past nine years. In a May 6 blog post, the American Civil Liberties Union's Chris Rickerd celebrated the demise of NSEERS, pointing out that the government failed to convict anyone who was subject to the registration requirements.

Here are the 25 countries that NSEERS affected:

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Algeria
  3. Bahrain
  4. Bangladesh
  5. Egypt
  6. Eritrea
  7. Indonesia
  8. Iran
  9. Iraq
  10. Jordan
  11. Kuwait
  12. Lebanon
  13. Libya
  14. Morocco
  15. North Korea
  16. Oman
  17. Pakistan
  18. Qatar
  19. Saudi Arabia
  20. Somalia
  21. Sudan
  22. Syria
  23. Tunisia
  24. United Arab Emirates
  25. Yemen

About the Author

Connect with the FCW staff on Twitter @FCWnow.

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.

Featured

  • Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign event. Image: Shutterstock

    'Buy American' order puts procurement in the spotlight

    Some IT contractors are worried that the "buy American" executive order from President Trump could squeeze key innovators out of the market.

  • OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, shown here in as a member of Congress in 2013. (Photo credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

    White House taps old policies for new government makeover

    New guidance from OMB advises agencies to use shared services, GWACs and federal schedules for acquisition, and to leverage IT wherever possible in restructuring plans.

  • Shutterstock image (by Everett Historical): aerial of the Pentagon.

    What DOD's next CIO will have to deal with

    It could be months before the Defense Department has a new CIO, and he or she will face a host of organizational and operational challenges from Day One

  • USAF Gen. John Hyten

    General: Cyber Command needs new platform before NSA split

    U.S. Cyber Command should be elevated to a full combatant command as soon as possible, the head of Strategic Command told Congress, but it cannot be separated from the NSA until it has its own cyber platform.

  • Image from Shutterstock.

    DLA goes virtual

    The Defense Logistics Agency is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to eliminate its IT infrastructure and transition to using exclusively shared, hosted and virtual services.

  • Fed 100 logo

    The 2017 Federal 100

    The women and men who make up this year's Fed 100 are proof positive of what one person can make possibile in federal IT. Read on to learn more about each and every winner's accomplishments.

Reader comments

Tue, May 17, 2011 amio NC

I entered USA (JFK) without special registration coz i simply didn't know about it and nobody in the airport told me to do so. But after cancellation of this program should I go back to JFK or local DHS or what? should I worry ?
plz help !!!!

Thu, May 12, 2011 Dave

I get the impression from the article the two "replacement" systems don't collect all the information... Is this just DHS being PC? Certainly can't tell from what's written here.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group