Center for Immigrants' Rights plays role in key post-9/11 policy shift

University Park, Pa. -- The Department of Homeland Security announced it would suspend the controversial NSEERS (National Security Entry-Exit Registration System) program implemented in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, a move which had been advocated by the Penn State Law Center for Immigrants’ Rights.

Produced in collaboration with the American-Arab Antidiscrimination Committee, the Center’s report, “NSEERS: The Consequences of Efforts to Secure Its Borders,” provided the most comprehensive overview of the program and analyzed how NSEERS cases were handled in courts throughout the country. It also chronicled the real impact of NSEERS on the Arab, Muslim, and South Asian communities and their respective American families and proposed recommendations, most notably the termination of NSEERS by DHS.

“For nearly 10 years advocacy groups have been working to educate the Department of Homeland Security and communities about the ineffectiveness and discriminatory nature of this program,” said Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, clinical professor and director of Penn State’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights. “We’re hopeful that this is just the first step -- the Department must grant relief to those impacted by NSEERS and review any other post 9/11 initiatives that continue to devastate the immigration process.”

The NSEERS program was revealed to be discriminatory, arbitrary, and ultimately an ineffective security measure. One controversial aspect of the program was a component that required more than 80,000 men who were in the United States on temporary visas from Arab or Muslim-majority countries to register themselves at ports of entry and local immigration offices for fingerprints, photographs and lengthy questioning.

“It is a wonderful feeling to know that I had a hand in impacting federal policy, if not directly, through the white paper authored by the Center for Immigrants' Rights under the direction of Professor Shoba Wadhia,” said Amala Abdur-Rahman, a 2010 Penn State Law graduate who worked on the report as a student and a current civil rights advocacy fellow at the Council on American Islamic Relations in Florida.

“The Center’s work gives law students the opportunity to analyze the law, assess policies, and work with stakeholders to effect change. Those changes may not happen in a single semester, but it’s gratifying to know that our work product, in this case for example, contributed to this policy shift,” said Wadhia.

To view an interview with Wadhia, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMIut-HsADY online.

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Last Updated May 20, 2011