Obama just made it harder for Trump to create a Muslim registry



Outgoing President Barack Obama has made no secret of the fact that he thinks Donald Trump's on-again-off-again plan to create a database of Muslims in the United States is a bad idea, but once the president-elect takes office, there won't be anything he can do to stop him. On his way out the door, however, Obama did put an obstacle in Trump's way.

The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday officially shut down the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, a leftover program put in place in 2002 following the 9/11 terror attacks a year earlier. The controversial program required males aged 16 and older who enter the U.S. from specified countries to be fingerprinted, photographed, and interviewed about their plans. The program is also extended to people already living legally in the U.S. if they came from countries on the list.

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Of the 25 countries named in the regulation, all but one, North Korea, were majority Muslim nations, leading to charges that the rule was discriminatory. However, the system's own flaws were its downfall. The program turned out to be expensive to implement, unwieldy in operation, and worst of all, redundant.

In 2011, after agencies had already effectively stopped enforcing some of the provisions of the system, the Obama administration officially mothballed the program, saying that modernized information systems monitoring travelers moving in and out of the country were already providing the information that the NSEERS program collected.

Even though the program was no longer operational, the regulations that implemented it were still on the books in the Code of Federal Regulations. As of Friday, that will change, when a final rule by DHS is announced in the Federal Register.

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Backlash faced by Muslims in US
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Backlash faced by Muslims in US
Egyptian-American community activist Rana Abdelhamid (L) demonstrates a move during a self-defense workshop designed for Muslim women in Washington, DC, March 4, 2016 in this handout photo provided by Rawan Elbaba. Picture taken March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Rawan Elbaba/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
Young Muslims protest U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump before being escorted out during a campaign rally in the Kansas Republican Caucus at the Century II Convention and Entertainment Center in Wichita, Kansas March 5, 2016. REUTERS/Dave Kaup TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A Muslim man prays while people shout slogans against U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump outside of his office in Manhattan, New York, December 20, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Janice Tufte of Seattle, a Muslim, participates in a pro-refugee protest organized by Americans for Refugees and Immigrants in Seattle, Washington November 28, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Redmond
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - MARCH 09: A poster, reads 'Muslims! They invented coffee, the toothbrush, and algebra... Oh wait, sorry about the algebra. That's a year of class you'll never get back', is being displayed at a subway station under 77th Street, New York, NY, USA on March 09, 2016. Varied posters giving right information about Muslims and inform people against Islamophobia, prepared by Muslim comedians Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah, are being displayed at 144 subway stations of subway system in New York City within a project with 20,000 US Dollars cost. (Photo by Selcuk Acar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2016/01/18: Bay Ridge residents march along Ft Hamilton Parkway in support of the Muslim community. Hundreds of Brooklyn residents gathered in Bay Ridge at the site of an alleged bias attack for a march entitled 'Muslims Our Neighbors' in support of Bay Ridge's Islamic community. (Photo by Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MIDTOWN MANHATTAN, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2015/12/20: Several hundred demonstrators rallied outside of Trump Tower at East 56th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan to condemn Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump's position on immigration rights; after rallying for nearly two hours, demonstrators marched to Herald Square. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A group of Muslims pray before a rally in front of Trump Tower December 20, 2015 in New York. Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump proposed a call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. AFP PHOTO/KENA BETANCUR / AFP / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 10, 2015: Fire and hazmat crews arrive on the scene to investigate a suspicious letter delivered to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on December 10, 2015 in Washington, D.C. CAIR is the largest non-profit Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, with offices two blocks from the U.S. Capitol building. (Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images)
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2015/12/09: Hand-lettered Love Your Muslim Neighbor sign held aloft. City council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito led an interfaith rally of political leaders and clergy on the steps of city hall to denounce Republican candidate Donald Trump's call to ban Muslim entry into the US. (Photo by Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, Dec. 6, 2015-- Local Muslim residents attend a gathering to mourn victims who were killed in the recent deadly shooting incident in Islamic Community Center in Loma Linda, San Bernardino, California, United States, Dec. 6, 2015. (Xinhua/Yang Lei via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC DECEMBER 2: Ibrahim Hashi, a Muslim veteran of the United States military, is pictured in his American University dorm room, where a Marine Corp flag hangs on his living room wall, on Wednesday, December 2, 2015, in Washington, DC. Since leaving the Marines as a corporal in 2011, Hashi has heard more anti-Muslim rhetoric than ever. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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A draft version of the rule, already available on the Federal Register's website, says, "The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is removing outdated regulations relating to an obsolete special registration program for certain nonimmigrants. DHS ceased use of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration system (NSEERS) program in 2011 after finding that the program was redundant, captured data manually that was already captured through automated systems, and no longer provided an increase in security in light of DHS's evolving assessment of the threat posed to the United States by international terrorism. The regulatory structure pertaining to NSEERS no longer provides a discernible public benefit as the program has been rendered obsolete. Accordingly, DHS is removing the special registration program regulations."

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In a statement, a DHS official added, "The intervening years have shown that NSEERS is not only obsolete but that its use would divert limited personnel and resources from more effective measures."

While eliminating the implementing regulations of a non-operational program may seem like a pointless exercise, it isn't. By taking the NSEERS system completely off the books, the Obama administration is foreclosing the possibility that the Trump administration could quickly resurrect the program.

New regulations would be subject to the time-consuming notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act, which could delay the implementation of a new Muslim registry indefinitely.

The notice came just a day after President-elect Trump seemed to suggest that a recent terror attack on a Christmas market in the German capital of Berlin vindicated his call, early in the campaign, for a ban on Muslims entering the country and the suggestion that creating a registry of Muslims was also possible.

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"You know my plans," Mr. Trump said after a reporter asked him if the Berlin attack made him consider pressing ahead with a Muslim ban or registry. "All along, I've been proven to be right. One hundred percent correct."

A spokesperson later said that Trump was simply restating his plan to "suspend admission of those from countries with high terrorism rates and apply a strict vetting procedure for those seeking entry in order to protect American lives."

The Obama administration, though, doesn't appear to be taking any chances.

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The best moments and photos from President Obama's last year
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The best moments and photos from President Obama's last year

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill January 12, 2016 in Washington, D.C. In his final State of the Union, President Obama reflected on the past seven years in office and spoke on topics including climate change, gun control, immigration and income inequality.

(Photo by Evan Vucci - Pool/Getty Images)

Cuban President Raul Castro (R) raises US President Barack Obama's hand during a joint press conference at the Revolution Palace in Havana on March 21, 2016. Cuba's Communist President Raul Castro on Monday stood next to Barack Obama and hailed his opposition to a long-standing economic 'blockade,' but said it would need to end before ties are fully normalized.

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama touches the coffin of former Israeli president and prime minister Shimon Peres after speaking during his funeral at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl national cemetery on September 30, 2016.

(ABIR SULTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama arrives to speak during a closing session at the Nuclear Security Summit April 1, 2016 in Washington, D.C. After a spate of terrorist attacks from Europe to Africa, Obama is rallying international support during the summit for an effort to keep Islamic State and similar groups from obtaining nuclear material and other weapons of mass destruction.

(Photo By Andrew Harrer/Pool/Getty Images)

First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. President Barack Obama wait for leaders to arrive for the Nordic state dinner on the North Portico at the White House, May 13, 2016, in Washington, DC. Leaders from Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Iceland were invited to the White House for the U.S.-Nordic leaders summit.

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama wears a traditional blanket and hat given to him during the 2016 White House Tribal Nations Conference at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC, September 26, 2016.

(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama arrives with US first lady Michelle Obama to speak during a reception to mark Black History Month in the East Room of the White House February 18, 2016 in Washington, DC.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama holds a baby during a State Arrival ceremony for Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, August 2, 2016.

(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton hugs U.S. President Barack Obama as she arrives onstage at the end of his speech on the third night of the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., July 27, 2016.

(REUTERS/Jim Young)

U.S. President Barack Obama drinks a glass of filtered water from Flint, a city struggling with the effects of lead-poisoned drinking water, as he delivers remarks at North Western, in Flint, Michigan May 4, 2016.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks to the 2016 graduating class at High Point Solutions Stadium during Rutgers University's 250th commencement exercises, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, May 15, 2016.

(REUTERS/Mike Theiler)

U.S. President Barack Obama blows bubbles during the 2016 White House Science Fair in Washington, April 13, 2016. The bubble maker was made on a 3D printer by Jacob Leggette, 9, of Baltimore, Maryland.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

U.S. President Barack Obama gestures during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Germany, November 17, 2016.

(REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)

U.S. President Barack Obama awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (L) in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., November 22, 2016.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

U.S. President Barack Obama congratulates his daughter Malia on her birthday during the Independence Day celebration at the White House in Washington U.S., July 4, 2016.

(REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) hugs with atomic bomb survivor Shigeaki Mori as he visits Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan May 27, 2016.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama serve Thanksgiving dinner to residents of the Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH) in Washington, U.S., November 23, 2016.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Malia Obama's hair flies into the air as a cold wind hits her and U.S. President Barack Obama while descending the steps of Air Force One upon their arrival at O'Hare Airport in Chicago April 7, 2016.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

First lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama perform a reading of the children's book "Where the Wild Things Are" for children gathered for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, March 28, 2016.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

US President Barack Obama and Republican President-elect Donald Trump shake hands during a transition planning meeting in the Oval Office at the White House on November 10, 2016 in Washington,DC.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama speaks as he attends a campaign rally in support of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at the University of Central Florida on October 28, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Election day for the presidential candidates is 10 days away.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and Cuban President Raul Castro talk before the start of an exhibition game between the Cuban national team and the Major League Baseball team Tampa Bay Devil Rays at the Estado Latinoamericano March 22, 2016 in Havana, Cuba. This is the first time a sitting president has visited Cuba in 88 years.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) meets with U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, September 5, 2016.

(Sputnik/Kremlin/Alexei Druzhinin/via REUTERS)

(L-R) Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama shake hands while posing for the family photo at the North American Leaders' Summit in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 29, 2016.

(REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

With tears running down his cheeks, U.S. President Barack Obama talks about the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and about his efforts to increase federal gun control in the East Room of the White House January 5, 2016 in Washington, DC. Without approval from Congress, Obama is sidestepping the legislative process with executive actions to expand background checks for some firearm purchases and step up federal enforcement of existing gun laws.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

U.S. President Barack Obama reacts after pardoning the National Thanksgiving turkey during the 69th annual presentation of the turkey in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S. November 23, 2016.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

U.S. President Barack Obama greets supporters at a rally for Hillary Clinton's campaign in Las Vegas, Nevada October 23, 2016.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

US President Barack Obama votes early at the Cook County Office Building in Chicago, Illinois, October 7, 2016. Obama cast an early ballot on Friday, highlighting a Democratic drive to get voters to the polls even before November 8. During an unannounced visit, Obama stood before a voting machine at the Chicago Board of Elections office, punched in his choice and smirked when asked who he had voted for.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama plays with a baby after speaking at Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina, November 4, 2016, during a Hillary for America campaign event.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Lawmakers watch as US President Barack Obama signs H.R. 2576, the 'Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act at the White House campus June 22, 2016 in Washington, DC.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the National Park Service at Yosemite National Park, California, U.S., June 18, 2016.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

U.S. President Barack Obama tries virtual reality glasses and he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel tour Hanover Messe Trade Fair in Hanover, Germany April 25, 2016.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden (L) enter the Oval Office after Obama spoke about the election results that saw Donald Trump become President-elect from the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., November 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

U.S. President Barack Obama hugs his wife Michelle as Vice-President Joe Biden and his wife Jill look on after the President delivered a farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. January 10, 2017.

(REUTERS/John Gress)

U.S. President Barack Obama says "Obama out!" at the White House Correspondents' Association annual dinner in Washington, U.S., April 30, 2016.

(REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

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