WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama's administration on Thursday said it was dismantling a dormant national registry program which mostly targeted Arab and Muslim men visiting from countries with active terrorist groups.
Obama first froze the National Security Entry-Exit Registration Systems in 2011 by removing from the program all countries listed as having active terror groups. But the program's primary structure was left intact.
"The Department of Homeland Security is removing outdated regulations pertaining to the National Security Entry-Exit Registration Systems program, with an immediate effective date," DHS spokesman Neema Hakim said, adding that since freezing the program "intervening years have shown that NSEERS is not only obsolete, but that its use would divert limited personnel and resources from more effective measures."
The Obama administration's decision follows a request from New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who said the program, created after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, "undermined trust" in law enforcement and generated fear in some communities.
President-elect Donald Trump has not explicitly suggested establishing a program that would track Muslim immigrants in the United States, but also hasn't dismissed the idea completely. Schneiderman said Obama dismantling the program was necessary because "we can't risk giving President-elect Trump the tools to create an unconstitutional religious registry."
Since 2006, senior officials at the Department of Homeland Security have called for the termination of the program, a 2012 internal report said, which suggested the program be terminated.
"Leaving the regulatory structure of the NSEERS program in place provides no discernible public benefit," the report said.
The program predominately affected Arab and Muslim men aged 16 and older from 25 countries -- an exception being North Korea, which was on the list but does not have a large Arab or Muslim population.
"This is a win for civil rights and for smart, effective law enforcement, as well as for the strong coalition of advocacy organizations and others who fought to dismantle this discriminatory tool," Schneiderman said in a statement following the White House announcement. "My office will continue do everything it can to protect the rights of all New Yorkers, and ensure equal justice under the law for all, regardless of religion or national origin."