A key member of Donald Trump’s transition team has said that the nascent Trump administration is already weighing a plan to launch a registry for immigrants and visitors from Muslim countries.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is considered one of Trump’s top advisers and also a possible candidate for attorney general, told Reuters that the president-elect’s advisers have discussed preparing a policy proposal for a registry.
A spokesperson for Kobach did not respond to a request for further details.
Trump said a year ago that he would support the creation of a database to register Muslims, telling NBC News that he “would certainly implement that — absolutely.”
Kobach helped design a similar program after the 9/11 terrorist attacks while serving under former president George W. Bush, Reuters reported. That program, known as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, required people from countries deemed “higher risk” to undergo interrogations and fingerprinting upon arrival. Some men were also expected to follow a parole-like system by periodically checking in with local authorities. The program, which civil rights groups said targeted Muslims, was dissolved in 2011.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said that a registry for Muslims would almost certainly be unconstitutional. “The day they create a Muslim registry is the day I register as a Muslim,” he added.
Colin Christopher, the deputy head of government affairs at Dar al-Hijrah, one of the largest mosques in Northern Virginia, described the concept of a registry as “immoral and un-American.” Beyond that, he said, “It also lacks a legal foundation. And if this idea transitions to something more serious and is implemented, civil rights organizations will see it in court.”
A report released by the FBI on Monday showed that hate crimes against Muslims rose by 67 percent over the course of 2015. Statistics for 2016 are not yet available.
Faith leaders and civil rights groups have consistently accused Trump of stoking anti-Muslim sentiments in his calls for policies including a Muslim ban, a Muslim database and “extreme vetting.” In a few reported cases this year, attackers and vandals involved in crimes against Muslims have referred to Trump explicitly.
Muslim activists and community leaders have described a wave of fear in Muslim communities across the country in the week since Trump’s unexpected win on Nov. 8. Muslim college students have described harassment on social media, and parents have fretted about whether their daughters will be safe wearing headscarves.
“We’re basically calling this 11/9,” said Christopher. “There’s 9/11 and this is 11/9, and in some ways this is more traumatic for our community.”
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, he said, most of America was united in its horror over what happened. On 11/9, the day after Trump’s victory, polls revealed an America that was sharply divided. He said there was “a moment of elation for some, and for others, a moment of horror” over the new policies that might be on America’s immediate horizon.
“That’s why I truly believe that 11/9 is going to be more difficult for this country than 9/11,” he said.