Barack Obama has taken action to try and prevent Donald Trump from establishing a registry of American Muslims and banning people from Muslim nations entering the US.
The Obama Administration is scrapping the dormant National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (Nseers) that logs and monitors people who enter the US from countries with active terrorist groups – a system Mr Trump could have resurrected and expanded to help implement his controversial plans.
During the election campaign, the businessman promised to impose a ban on all Muslims entering the country. He later modified this to apply only to people coming from countries with “a proven history of terrorism”.
Following his shock election victory on 8 November, Mr Trump’s team announced he was also considering imposing a “registry” of Muslim immigrants already in the US.
Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who is an adviser to Mr Trump and has been tipped for a job in the incoming administration, suggested these policies could be enacted by bringing back the Nseers system the Obama team are now scrapping.
Twenty-four of the 25 countries that were included in the Nseers register were Muslim-majority nations. The other was North Korea.
The system was introduced after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 but has not been used since 2011, reports The New York Times – suggesting Mr Obama’s move is designed solely to make it harder for Mr Trump to fulfil his pledges.
The President-elect this week reiterated his promise to ban Muslim immigrants and set up a register of US Muslims. He answered a question from reporters on whether this was still his intention by saying: “You know my plans all along and I’ve been proven to be right. 100 per cent correct.”
A spokesperson later said Mr Trump was referring to his modified plans to ban the immigration of people from countries where there are terrorist groups operating, rather than his earlier proposals for a blanket ban on all Muslims entering the US.
Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway was asked on Thursday if the President-elect had backed away from the idea of a Muslim registry.
“Well, he said during the campaign long after he had originally proposed that, that this would be more strictly tied to countries where we know they have a history of terrorism,” Ms Conway said on ABC’s Good Morning America.
“This is not a complete ban,” added Ms Conway, who was named Trump’s White House counsellor on Thursday.
Democrats, including 51 members of Congress, had called on Mr Obama to scrap the Nseers register to avoid it being utilised by Mr Trump. Left-wing mayors from cities with large immigrant populations have also said they will not co-operate with Mr Trump’s immigration policies.
The Obama Administration has now set the ball rolling on abolishing the registry by initiating a change to federal rules that will come into effect this week.
Neema Hakim, a spokesman for the US Department of Homeland Security [DHS], told the Times the programme was “obsolete” and “outdated”.
“DHS [Department of Homeland Security] ceased use of Nseers more than five years ago, after it was determined the program was redundant, inefficient and provided no increase in security”, he said.
Mr Obama has taken several steps to attempt to secure his legacy and make it harder for Mr Trump to fulfil some of his more controversial policy pledges.
He moved to guarantee federal funding of abortion clinics in the face of the President-elect’s anti-abortion message and introduced a ban on drilling in the Arctic and parts of the Atlantic.
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