The Conference between the Senate and the House on the omnibus appropriations bill has left opponents of the NSEERS program with a small but important victory. Although the funding of the NSEERS program stays intact, Congress has stepped in to investigate the program in its entirety. This is a great victory for the opponents of the program.
The NIAC Legislative Action Center has generated more than 4000 letters requesting that Congress investigates the program, and their call has now been heeded. Amongst other things, Congress wants to know why the INS detained persons with pending status-adjustment applications as well as how the information gathered will be used and stored. These were the two principle demands made by NIAC officials in their meetings with Congressional offices.
According to the compromise the Department of Justice must submit to Congress by March 1, 2003 all National Security Entry-Exit Registration System documents and materials:
(1) used in the creation of the NSEERS program, including any predecessor programs;
(2) assessing the effectiveness of the NSEERS program as a tool to enhance national security;
(3) used to determine the scope of the NSEERS program, including countries selected for the program, and the gender, age, and immigration status of the persons required to register under the program;
(4) regarding future plans to expand the NSEERS program to additional countries, age groups, women, and persons holding other immigration statuses not already covered;
(5) explaining of whether the Department of Justice consulted with other federal agencies in the development of the NSEERS programs, and if so, all documents and materials relating to those consultations;
(6) concerning policy directives or guidance issued to officials about implementation of NSEERS, including the role of the FBI in conducting national security background checks of registrants;
(7) explaining why certain INS District Offices detained persons with pending status-adjustment applications; and
(8) explaining how information gathered during interviews of registrants will be stored, used, or transmitted to other Federal, State, or local agencies.''.
The tight deadline of March 1 is noteworthy and the reporting procedure may pave the way for a hearing on the matter if Congress finds the Justice Department's documentation inadequate or if the documentation reveals many question marks with the program. It is important that Iranian-Americans continue to write their members of Congress and ask for a hearing on this matter, as we are one step closer to that goal now.
... Payvand News - 2/15/03 ... --