Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Blog

Last night, the Senate Judiciary Committee adopted an amendment by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that would require the Department of Homeland Security to conduct “additional security screening” on applicants for legal residency if they are or were previously a “citizen or long-term resident of any such country or region" that posed national security concerns.

The amendment was offered last night and immediately drew opposition from Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) as well as a series of civil and human rights groups, including AAI. Not only is Sen. Graham’s amendment completely unnecessary, but it essentially calls for the revival of the deeply flawed and discriminatory program known as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) that was instituted in the aftermath of 9/11. Immediately following 9/11, NSEERS was responsible for creating the conditions which led to the imprisonment and deportation of over 1,200 Arab and Muslim immigrants.

The NSEERS program was a badly conceived, poorly planned, and an arbitrarily implemented program that was widely discredited for using racial and ethnic profiling to target individuals from predominately Muslim, Arab, or South Asian communities. The program resulted in the issuance of thousands of deportation orders, often without justification. The Department of Homeland Security’s own Inspector General reported that the program was in fact inefficient and burdensome and failed to result in any successful counter-terrorism prosecutions. Sen. Graham’s amendment would be no different from reinstituting NSEERS, and will not be successful in rooting out national security threats.    

Earlier this month, AAI issued an action alert encouraging our members to contact their senators to oppose any language in the Senate immigration bill (S. 744) that gives rise to profiling. Senator Hirono (D-HI) authored a friendly amendment that would have closed the national security loophole and would have added religion and national origin to the proposed prohibitions of racial and ethnic profiling in the profiling section of S. 744. The amendment, however, was never offered. Another racial profiling amendment that was not offered during the markup of S. 744 was an amendment authored by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) which would have allowed profiling on the basis of race and ethnicity. A third profiling amendment authored by Sen. Grassley (R-IA) that permitted profiling on the basis of national origin was offered Monday evening but failed to be adopted.     

Sen. Graham’s amendment is yet another indication that for some members of Congress, supporting programs that discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion is politically expedient. Sen. Graham is not alone. In the immediate aftermath of the Boston attacks, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has styled himself as a champion of civil liberties, called for the revival of NSEERS and discrimination against individuals based on their national origin or religion. We expect more from our lawmakers. Profiling is not only wrong but unconstitutional. Discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion undermines the basic and fundamental human rights afforded to every person and should not be tolerated.

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