On the eve of Donald Trump’s planned meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — his first in-person conversation with a world leader and U.S. ally as President-elect — one of Trump’s surrogates repeatedly cited World War II Japanese internment camps as precedent for a “Muslim registry.”
The comments come just a day after a Reuters interview with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — an immigration hardliner on Trump’s transition team — revealed the President-elect’s team of advisors was considering a database to track immigrants from Muslim countries.
Trump surrogate Carl Higbie, a spokesman for the Great America PAC, appeared on “The Kelly File” Wednesday night to not only defend but lobby for the deeply controversial and constitutionally questionable Muslim registry.
“It is legal, they say it will hold constitutional muster,” Higbie said. “We did it during World War II with the Japanese …. Call it what you will.”
“Come on,” Megyn Kelly interjected. “You’re not proposing we go back to the days of internment camps I hope …. That’s the kind of stuff that gets people scared, Carl.”
“We need to put America first,” Higbie responded. “There is precedent for it.”
“You can’t be citing Japanese internment camps for anything the president elect is going to do,” Kelly said.
“Look, the President needs to protect America first,” Higbie said. “If that means having people that are not protected under our Constitution have some sort of registry so we can … identify the true threat and where it’s coming from, I support it.”
Higbie has previously argued that anyone on a terror watch list “should be in jail.”
In the interview with Reuters published Tuesday, Kobach said that the President-elect’s policy advisers had discussed drafting a proposal to reinstate a program similar to the Bush-era one that tracked “certain individuals from countries chosen based on an analysis of possible national security threats,” according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Kobach, also rumored to be a candidate for Attorney General, was the architect of the original program, known as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, while serving under President George W. Bush. Aside from domestic registration, which ended in 2003, nationals from 25 countries — all majority-Muslim, save for North Korea — entering the U.S. were fingerprinted, photographed, and interviewed under the program.
The database, which was instituted following the attacks on Sept. 11, operated from 2002 until 2011. But the Department of Homeland Security dissolved the program amid complaints that its activities amounted to racial profiling and that it was ineffective.
Aside from discussion of a registry, Trump has advocated the suspension of some Muslim immigration as well as “extreme vetting.” Last December, in the wake of the San Bernardino attack, Trump proposed a blanket ban on all Muslims entering the U.S. — a controversial idea that his team later walked back. By March, however, a YouGov/ Huffington Post poll indicated that the idea had taken hold, and that a majority of Americans were in favor of the proposed travel ban.