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Law and SIA students document impact of controversial NSEERS program


The impact of a federal government program that targeted non-citizens from mostly Muslim majority countries is documented in a new report The NSEERS Effect: A Decade of Racial Profiling, Fear, and Secrecy developed by the Penn State Law Center for Immigrants’ Rights on behalf of the Rights Working Group.

"The NSEERS program contained all the features of a bad policy, as it targeted visitors based on their religion, ethnicity, and nationality; caused thousands of men to face detention, deportation, and other immigration consequences; and proved to be ineffective as a counter terrorism tool," said Professor Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, director of the center. She stressed that reforms recommended in the report need to be implemented in order to help remedy some of the damage caused by the program.Professor Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia directs the Center for Immigrants' Rights.

“One of our main goals was to describe the impact a program like this can have on a community,” said Constantin Schreiber who will graduate from Penn State’s School of International Affairs this summer. He worked with Penn State Law student Mohita Anand ’13 doing extensive research on the laws, policies, and statistics related to implementation of NSEERS and interviewing individuals connected directly to the fallout from the program. “When you read about the NSEERS program, you often don’t get a sense of the personal stories…the purpose of our work is, in addition to providing a policy analysis and recommendations, to give people a deeper understanding of what happened to individual lives as a result of NSEERS.”

The report follows earlier work by the Center on the “end” of NSEERS as announced by the Department of Homeland Security last April. Professor Wadhia pointed out that in spite of this announcement, there was no plan for how to resolve countless open issues. “You have people who are still being penalized for either registering or not registering under the NSEERS. Imagine an Iraqi husband of a U.S. citizen wife who has been living and working in the U.S. but is denied a green card based on his marriage because he was afraid to register under NSEERS when he was 17 years old," she said. "The NSEERS program has brought more than a decade of fear and damage to families and communities." The report recommendations include that the government dismantle infrastructure of the program and remove residual penalties resulting from NSEERS.

Schreiber is moving on to a PhD. Program in Education Policy and Evaluation where he will take with him the skills he said he developed while working on this project. “The project helped me develop my communications skills in a professional environment along with my project management skills. This particularly applies to the the interviews we conducted with stakeholders. It really is an analytical project with real-world impact.”

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