Washington: US President Barack Obama has taken steps to prevent President-elect Donald Trump from establishing a registry of American Muslims and banning people from Muslim nations entering the US, the media reported.
The Obama administration is dismantling the dormant National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (Nseers) that logs and monitors people/visitors from countries with active terrorist groups — a programme that Trump was considering to resurrect.
The registry was created after the September 11, 2001, attacks and has not been used ever since, reported the New York Times on Thursday.
The move by the White House to formally end the registry is largely symbolic and appeared to be aimed at distancing the departing administration from any effort by the new President to revive the programme.
Asked on Wednesday, in the aftermath of the Berlin attack, whether he still intended to set up a registry for Muslims and impose a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants, Trump said in Florida, “You know my plans.”
However, hours later, his spokesman said Trump was not reaffirming his earlier calls for a ban on immigration from Muslim countries but was referring to his more recent clarification that he would bar people from countries with a history of Islamist extremism.
Democrats, including 51 members of the Congress, had called on Obama to scrap the Nseers Register to avoid it being utilised by Trump. Mayors from cities with large immigrant populations have also said they will not cooperate with Trump’s immigration policies.
The Obama administration has now set the ball rolling on abolishing the registry by initiating a change to federal rules that will come into effect this week.
Neema Hakim, a spokesman for the US Department of Homeland Security, not only called the registry programme “obsolete” and “outdated” but also said that it diverts personnel and resources from other areas that are seen as more effective.
Officials in the agency have long believed that the programme has outlived its usefulness.
Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who is an advisor to Trump, helped to devise the registry programme while at the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration.
Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Apple are among several technology companies that have publicly stated that they would not assist the new administration in developing any programme that would collect information that could be used by the government to track immigrants from Muslim countries.
Hakim said that the new tools are “far better equipped to face the evolving landscape of international terrorism”. Those programmes include an automated system for collecting and storing biometric data such as fingerprints from nearly all people entering the country.