Second Circuit upholds retired non-immigration registration system

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] on Wednesday upheld [opinion, PDF] as constitutional a former National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) [DOJ backgrounder] program which required non-immigrant adult males from 25 predominantly Muslim nations and North Korea to register with immigration authorities and re-register annually or face deportation. Four men who have since been deported filed suit in 2006 arguing that Attorney General John Ashcroft [official profile] lacked statutory authority to pass such a measure, and claiming also that their constitutional rights had been violated because they were deported "based on their religion, ethnicity, gender, and race." The court disagreed, holding:

[I]mmigration regulation differs fundamentally from the legal contexts relied upon because classifications on the basis of nationality are frequently unavoidable in immigration matters . . . Indeed, the very concept of 'alien' is a nationality-based classification . . . [T]here is no tension whatsoever between Congress passing specific laws targeting terrorism and the Attorney General using broad powers granted under existing statutes toward the same end.

There was a rational national security basis for the Program. The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 were facilitated by the lax enforcement of immigration laws. The Program was designed to monitor more closely aliens from certain countries selected on the basis of national security criteria. The individual subject to special registration under the Program were neither citizens nor even lawful permanent residents. They were asked to provide information regarding their immigration status and other matters relevant to national security . . . In sum, . . . [we conclude] that the Program does not violate Equal Protection guarantees.
AP has more.

The program, which was implemented in 2002 following the 9/11 attacks [JURIST news archive] and later moved under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] after its implementation in 2003, was criticized by some who said that the requirements were poorly publicized, that it created "deportation traps" and alienated law-abiding visitors while doing little to enhance national security. DHS terminated the program [JURIST report] in November 2003, but the registration database still exists.

 

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