Merkley Joins Colleagues to Introduce Legislation Blocking Establishment of Federal Religious Registry

Washington, D.C. – Today, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley announced that he has joined Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and seven of their Senate colleagues to introduce legislation that would block the establishment of a registry of people based on their religion, race, age, gender, ethnicity, national origin, or nationality. 

“Contrary to the President-elect’s beliefs, America’s diversity is not a threat – it is, in fact, our greatest strength,” Merkley said. “Opportunity for all is the American way and the secret to our nation’s success. If our incoming President ever attempts to create a discriminatory database of Americans, let this be our warning shot: we will fight him every step of the way and in every way we can.” 

President-Elect Donald Trump has repeatedly promised to establish a registry of Muslims.

The Protect American Families Act would prohibit the creation of any immigration-related registry program that classifies people based on their religion, race, age, gender, ethnicity, national origin, nationality, or citizenship.

National origin-based immigration registry systems have proven ineffective at combatting terrorism and strengthening national security, but effective at instilling fear in certain communities. The George W. Bush-era National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), which required non-citizen visa holders from certain countries to register with the federal government, registered over 83,000 individuals from 24 Muslim-majority countries, but yielded zero terrorism convictions. Yet, people tracked by NSEERS were required to register at local immigration offices, be fingerprinted, photographed, subjected to lengthy interrogations, and over 13,000 were deported. The Obama administration announced in December that it was repealing the regulatory framework for the NSEERS program.

In addition to Merkley and Booker, the legislation was cosponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI). The text of the bill can be viewed at the following link: