“I would certainly implement that. Absolutely. There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases. We should have a lot of systems.”
Around the time Trump made his statement to NBC, campaign surrogate Carl Higbie cited Japanese American internment camps during World War II as the precedent for such a policy. However, many Americans, disturbed by such an idea, quickly drew parallels between Donald Trump and genocidal Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. A year later, shortly after Trump was elected, Japanese-American actor George Takei, famous for appearing in episodes of The Twilight Zone and more so for his role as Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu in the original Star Trek series and who himself was held in an internment camp during the war, expressed in no uncertain terms that such practices are antithetical to democracy:
“My mother was born in Sacramento, California. My father was a San Franciscan. They were Northern Californians. And they met in Los Angeles, so I was born in Southern California. But there’s no north-south divide in our family. We’re Americans. We were and are—my parents have passed now, but we were citizens of this country. We had nothing to do with the war. We simply happened to look like the people that bombed Pearl Harbor. But without charges, without trial, without due process—the fundamental pillar of our justice system—we were summarily rounded up, all Japanese Americans on the West Coast, where we were primarily resident, and sent off to 10 barbed wire internment camps—prison camps, really, with sentry towers, machine guns pointed at us—in some of the most desolate places in this country: the wastelands of Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, the blistering hot desert of Arizona, of all places, in black tarpaper barracks. And our family was sent two-thirds of the way across the country, the farthest east, in the swamps of Arkansas.
“And it’s from this experience that, when I was a teenager, my father told me that our democracy is very fragile, but it is a true people’s democracy, both as strong and as great as the people can be, but it is also as fallible as people are. And that’s why good people have to be actively engaged in the process, sometimes holding democracy’s feet to the fire, in order to make it a better, truer democracy.”
To nobody’s surprise, on November 17, 2016, Jason Miller, the communications director for Trump’s transition team denied that Trump advocated for registering Muslims in a national database.
“President-elect Trump has never advocated for any registry or system that tracks individuals based on their religion, and to imply otherwise is completely false.
“The national registry of foreign visitors from countries with high terrorism activity that was in place during the Bush and Obama administrations gave intelligence and law enforcement communities additional tools to keep our country safe, but the president-elect plans on releasing his own vetting policies after he is sworn in.”
As such a thing apparently could become a reality upon Trump’s inauguration as President, Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, vowed to show solidarity:
“If one day Muslim Americans will be forced to register their identities, then that is the day that this proud Jew will register as a Muslim.”
Indeed, Trump’s idea for registering Muslims in a national database is not new. Besides the internment camps for Japanese Americans established during World War II, following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, legislation was passed requiring immigrants from mostly Arab and Muslim-majority countries to meet additional immigration requirements such as undergoing interrogation, providing fingerprints and registering in a federal database. Although 93,000 Muslims were registered in the database at that time, this program did not lead to the capture of any terrorists. As a result, it was deemed a discriminatory and ineffective waste of time, money and government resources and the Department of Homeland Security abandoned the plan in 2011, earning praise from the American Civil Liberties Union afterward.
Given that, why would the implementation of Trump’s scheme for a national registry of Muslims in the U.S. yield different results?
Featured image courtesy of Fibonacci Blue via Flickr.