Election 2016

Trump Advisers Call for National Muslim Registry, Echoing Nazis' Early Steps in Targeting Jews

The first step in a new prison and deportation system?

Photo Credit: www.kansansforkobach.com

Fears the incoming Trump administration will deploy race-based tools used by Nazi Germany to target Muslims were validated this week when a top immigration adviser said a national registry of immigrants might be created after taking office.  

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who drafted tough immigration laws in Arizona and elsewhere, said Trump's policy advisers had “discussed drafting a proposal for his consideration to reinstate a registry for immigrants from Muslim countries,” Reuters reported. Trump surrogates went further on Fox News, saying Japanese internment camps in World War II had created a precedent for a natuional registry.

Civil rights advocates quickly criticized the comments, focusing on the American internment camps from 75 years ago.

“A registry of Muslims is unconstitutional and un-American,” People for the American Way president Michael Keegan said, calling on Republicans to condemn it. “Any elected official or public leader who purports to care about religious liberty has an obligation to speak out against this repugnant attack on the First Amendment. Politicians who brush these threats aside are complicit in the worst kind of bigotry.”

But a more accurate historical analogy is not the Japanese internment camps, which came at the end of the roundup, imprisonment and deportation system, but Nazi Germany’s imposition of compulsory registration of Jews in the countries Germany occupied soon after invading in 1939 and 1940.

In Holland, the European country that deported the highest percentage of its Jewish population, the registry was the first step in a process of identifying, isolating, incarcerating, and deporting Jews, wrote European World War II historian Robert Moore. The registries were the front end of a methodical system that stripped Jews of their civil liberties, access to courts, property rights, and financial assets before being rounded up for imprisonment and deportation.

Compulsory registration led to requiring Jews to carry identity cards and sanctioned an atmosphere that encouraged bullying and race-based attacks. Pro-Nazi paramilitary groups were given wide leeway by the authorities to harass Jews in the streets, parks and restaurants and to pressure businesses into refusing to serve them, Moore wrote, describing how civil society slowly broke down under Nazi rule.

That’s the Pandora’s Box the Trump administration is flirting with, with white supremacists like Kobach influencing new federal immigration policy. Kobach not only wrote some of the most vehemently anti-immigrant legislation pushed by the GOP recently, in Arizona, he also imposed a proof-of-citizenship requirements on all Kansas voters, partly in response to non-whites moving into the state’s urban areas.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

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