Born in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now Immigration and Customs Enforcement) implemented a Special Registration Program in November 2002 to register Arab and South Asian immigrants.
Initiated as part of the U.S.’s “war on terrorism,” this controversial program required all males 16 years and older from more than twenty-four Muslim countries and North Korea to register with the federal government. An estimated 82,000 individuals registered across the country, 13,000 of whom were placed into deportation proceedings due to visa discrepancies. Civil rights and immigrant rights groups protested what was perceived as a discriminatory program that helped fuel anti-Arab and Muslim sentiment in the country. Critics of the program compared it to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, as well as to the racial profiling of African Americans and Latino/as by law enforcement agencies. Due to its controversial nature, the program was suspended at the end of 2003. However, the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), of which Special Registration was a provision, remained in effect until 2011.