Before Trump, there was a Muslim registry. It caught no terrorists.
An attorney who was nearly deported under a post-9/11 registration program warns the incoming Trump administration from reviving it.
Kamal Essaheb has vivid memories of the freezing day in 2003 when he, his two brothers and their father took a train to New York City’s federal building to join a long line of brown men waiting to be fingerprinted, photographed and asked: “Are you a terrorist?”
Essaheb recalled the fear and confusion on the men’s faces as, one by one, their names were added to a post-9/11 registry for immigrants from 24 Muslim-majority countries and North Korea.
The Essaheb men were placed in deportation proceedings, the beginning of a nightmare that took years and the intervention of advocacy groups to resolve, narrowly sparing them the fate of 13,000 mostly Muslim immigrants who were removed from the United States under the now-defunct program.
Essaheb, who became an immigration attorney after his ordeal, is alarmed that President-elect Donald Trump and his associates have floated the idea of reviving a so-called “Muslim registry,” a tactic he said ripped apart American families, unfairly targeted one religion and failed to result in a single terrorism conviction.
In an interview this week, he cautioned that a new round of fear-driven policies could lead to the same kind of government overreaches that occurred after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.