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The Obama administration has eliminated a dormant Bush-era program that could have been used by Donald Trump to implement his promised Muslim registry, the Department of Homeland Security said Thursday.
The tracking program, called the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, was created by the Justice Department in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It required men from 25 countries considered to be at "higher risk" of extremist activities to register in person and submit to questioning and fingerprinting at an Immigration and Naturalization Service office. Civil rights groups complained that it targeted residents of Muslim- and Arab-majority countries.
NSEERS hasn't been used since 2011, but it could potentially be revitalized. Obama apparently wants to avoid that happening. By removing regulations that provided a legal framework for the program, Obama aims to prevent Trump from using it, U.S. officials told NBC News on Thursday.
The Department of Homeland Security filing, posted in the Federal Register Thursday, calls NSEERS "outdated," "obsolete" and "redundant" due to updated rules and systems that allow the department to accomplish its security goals with more efficiency.
A 2012 report by the department's inspector general found the program to be "inefficient and ineffective," and with new tracking measures in place, "NSEERS and its regulatory structure serve no public benefit," the DHS said in a statement.
But Trump appears to be considering whether to bring it back.
He pledged a ban on Muslims entering the country during the presidential campaign, and his aides have since stressed the need for "extreme vetting" of them. One of his immigration advisers is Kris Kobach, an architect of NSEERS. After the election, a photograph of the two men together captured Kobach's briefing papers, which put the reinstatement of NSEERS as a top bullet point.
Jason Miller, a spokesman for the Trump transition team, said in a conference call Thursday that the incoming administration would have a response to the dismantling of NSEERS as part of a broader plan on executive orders.