Donald Trump’s transition team on Thursday denied that Trump is considering creating a registry of Muslim visitors and immigrants, but the Trump team merely distinguished a registry of Muslims from a registry of visitors and immigrants from countries with “high terrorism activity.”
“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,” spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement. “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.”
Talk of a possible registry of Muslims began when Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Trump adviser, said that the President-elect’s transition team is considering reinstating a registry similar to one Kobach helped create in 2002 under the Bush administration, the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). The registry required male visitors and immigrants over the age of 16 from a list of several countries, most of which were majority Muslim, to register and periodically check in with officials. NSEERS was criticized for targeting Muslims, and the U.S. government stopped using the program in 2011.
Though the registry floated by Kobach does not technically target Muslims, Trump has previously seemed willing to create a registry based on religion. A year ago, Trump said that he “would certainly implement” a database of Muslims in the U.S.
Criticism of the registry described by Kobach ballooned on Thursday when a Trump surrogate said that the Japanaese internment camps created by the U.S. government during World War II provides precedent for a registry of Muslims.