Donald Trump has never called for a “Muslim registry,” and any story claiming otherwise should be relegated to the pile of “fake news” the media is so concerned about right now.
The hysterical headlines claiming Trump and his surrogates are preparing to force all Muslims in the country to register perhaps reached their climax in this Washington Post headline Friday: “They interned my family. Don’t let them do it to Muslims.”
All of these headlines are based on two things — a brief interaction Trump had with a reporter on the campaign trail, and comments from a key member of his transition team working on immigration policy. Neither one of them calls for a “Muslim registry” verbatim — which is a term the media came up with on its own — although Trump is considering reinstating a Bush-era registry of all immigrants from certain countries.
Let’s take a look at both.
In the video clip making the rounds, Trump tells a reporter clearly baiting him on the matter that he would “absolutely” implement a database system to track Muslims. But his remarks in context are a far cry from definitive.
“Should there be a database system that tracks the Muslims here in this country?” The reporter asks Trump.
“There should be a lot of systems, beyond database,” Trump replied. “I mean we should have a lot of systems, and today you can do it. But right now we have to have a border. We have to have strength. We have to have a wall. And we cannot let what’s happening to this country happen any longer.”
“But that’s something your White House would like to implement?” The reporter pressed.
“Oh I would certainly implement that — absolutely,” Trump replied.
“What do you think the effect of that would be?” The reporter asked. “How would that work?”
“It would stop people from coming in illegally,” Trump said. “We have to stop people from coming into our country illegally.”
“So Muslims specifically, how do you actually get them registered into a database?” the reporter asked.
“It would be just good management,” Trump replied. “what you have to do is good management procedures, and we can do that.”
“Do you go to mosques and sign these people up?” the reporter asked. “Into the system?”
“Different places,” Trump replied. “You sign em up at different, but it’s all about management. Our country has no management.”
“Would they have to legally be in this database?” the reporter asked.
“They have to be,” Trump replied. “They have to be. Let me just tell you, the key is people can come to the country, but they have to come in legally.”
Clearly the reporter is talking about a national registry of all Muslims in the country when he approaches Trump and asks the question, but whether Trump is on the same page is less than clear. He more or less dodges the first question, for example, reiterating campaign talking points about a secure border, and talking vaguely of systems to help make that happen.
The president-elect is, however, undoubtedly considering a registry to track some immigrants, which leads back to the second basis for the “Muslim registry” stories. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — a key member of Trump’s transition team who is helping to craft his immigration policy — told Reuters in a November interview the administration is considering a registry.
Contrary to the Reuters headline, however, and the other headlines his comments generated, the proposal Kobach outlined is not a verbatim “Muslim registry.” What Kobach actually discussed in the interview is a proposal to reinstate a registry for all immigrants who enter the United States from certain countries where terrorist groups are active, such as Syria or Iraq.
President George W. Bush implemented the program after 9/11 to combat terrorists. Kobach helped design the program, called the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), which required immigrants from a designated list of suspect countries to register in the database. The Department of Homeland Security suspended the program in 2011.
The communications director for Trump’s transition team, Jason Miller, released a statement on the matter Friday.
“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,” he said. “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.”