By ADAM KLASFELD
MANHATTAN (CN) — Despite widespread outrage over Donald Trump’s proposal for a Muslim registry, President Barack Obama still has not dismantled the model created by his predecessor, George W. Bush.
In a blistering statement on Wednesday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman urged the president to shutter it before Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.
“America is a nation built by immigrants and the NSEERS program is an affront to our core American values of pluralism and equal justice under law,” Schneiderman said, referring to Bush’s National Security Entry-Exit Registration System.
“We can't risk giving President-elect Trump the tools to create an unconstitutional religious registry,” the attorney general added.
Created in September 2002, the NSEERS program fingerprinted, photographed and monitored noncitizens from 25 primarily Arab, Muslim-majority, African, and South Asian countries, as well as North Korea and Eritrea.
The Bush administration justified the privacy intrusion by citing the need for security after the Sept. 11th attacks, but the database of more than 80,000 teenage boys and men did not result in a single terrorism conviction.
More than 13,000, however, were placed in removal proceedings.
After Trump’s election in November, advocacy groups sounded the alarm about the long-forgotten program, and the Center for Constitutional Rights’ legal director Baher Azmy said that it was overdue for attention. “Perhaps we should have put the nail in that coffin many months ago,” he said in a phone interview.
In a Trump administration, the program will be in the hands of a “dangerous demagogue,” Azmy added.
In 2011, the Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security suspended the program, but it left the underlying architecture in place.
The agency’s inspector general at the time, Charles Edwards, spoke out against the program in February 2012.
“Leaving the regulatory structure of the NSEERS program in place provides no discernible public benefit,” he said.
“Deficiencies we identified in the NSEERS program were not related to the composition of the list of subject nationalities, but rather to the insufficient value of the NSEERS data,” Edwards’ 59-page report stated. “We encourage DHS to dismantle the vestiges of the program.”
The Obama administration did not act on the recommendation.
There is little doubt that the Trump administration intends to revive the program.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an influential Republican advising Trump on immigration, was photographed standing next to the future president holding paperwork describing a “strategic plan.”
Zooming in on the text, the Topeka Capital-Journal found at the top of the list: “Update and reintroduce the NSEERS screening and tracking system (National Security Entry-Exit Registration System) that was in place from 2002-2005.”
“All aliens from high-risk areas are tracked,” Kobach’s agenda said.
Attorney General Schneiderman said the program echoed a sorrowful moment in U.S. history.
“We can never allow our nation to return to the dark days of Japanese internment,” the attorney general said. “By finally dismantling the NSEERS program now, President Obama can make a repeat of that horror significantly more difficult.”
The White House’s National Security Council did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.