The first thing to know about Donald Trump’s alleged proposal for a Muslim registry is that it isn’t a Muslim registry.
This has been lost in a freakout that has some brave souls already promising acts of civil disobedience to disrupt and overwhelm the prospective registry. The controversy tells us much more about how the media will cover the Trump administration — i.e., through the lens of fact-free hysteria — than about the administration’s immigration-enforcement agenda.
The source of the fracas is a comment from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Trump immigration adviser and (excellent) candidate for Homeland Security director, to Reuters. Kobach noted that the administration might re-instate a Bush-era program tracking visitors to the United States from countries with active terrorist threats. This suggestion was spun into a first step toward herding our Muslim neighbors into internment camps.
Kobach was referring to the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS, which placed special requirements on adult male visitors from countries like Saudi Arabia. Implemented after 9/11 — when, you might recall, adult male visitors from Saudi Arabia toppled the World Trade Center — it collected fingerprints and photographs when visitors from the select countries arrived and required them to check in periodically to confirm that they were abiding by the terms of their visas.
It also required that certain individuals from these countries who were already here go through a process of “special registration,” including an interview with immigration officials. This is a far cry from FDR’s notorious Executive Order 9066 setting in motion the Japanese internment of World War II.