Talk of US immigrant registry stokes fears

A surrogate of Donald Trump has created a furor over comments he made citing the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II as a precedent for a proposed registry of Muslim immigrants for national security.
The comment and controversy came from Fox anchor Megyn Kelly's interview with Carl Higbie, a longtime supporter of President-elect Trump. Higbie talked about a proposal to form a national registry of immigrants from countries where terror groups are active.

"We've done it with Iran back a while ago, we did it during World War II with Japanese which call it what you will may be wrong," Higbie said.

Kelly responded, "Come on. You're not proposing we go back to the days of internment camps I hope."

Higbie said, "No, no. I'm not proposing that at all Megyn. but what I'm saying is we need to protect America...I'm just saying there is precedent for it."

Higbie's comparison sparked outrage and a quick response from Muslims and Japanese Americans concerned about racial and religious profiling.

"We're talking about our core values as a country," said Zahra Billoo, Executive Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations' San Francisco chapter.

"Within months after 9/11 the government instituted a registration program for people from Muslim majority countries who were here visiting. They detained many many innocent people. They broke up families, they terrified others," Billoo said.

She says renewing the registry would unfairly single out Muslims.

During the campaign, candidate Trump called for a ban on Muslim immigrants and when asked about some type of database, said "We're going to have to look at a lot of things very closely."

San Jose Congressman Mike Honda called the notion of a registry "a cowardly, hateful, and unconscionable return to what President Reagan…called 'a policy motived by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.'"

The Japanese American Citizens League also issued a statement saying, "Higbie's attempt to cite Japanese American incarceration as a precedent for this type of action is frightening and wrong."

UC Berkeley School of Law Professor Amanda Tyler says Higbie's assertion is not correct. Tyler says in the Japanese American cases of Gordon Hirabayashi, Fred Korematsu, Minoru Yasui and Mistuye Endo, the court decisions did not make a ruling on this issues of registries.

"There is no decision that ever upheld the internment as lawful and there's no decision on the merits on the registration issue either," Tyler said,

"There's sweeping language in both the Hirabayashi and Korematsu opinions of the government having broader authority in times of war, but the cases themselves on the actual arguments before the court were decided very narrowly."

"Even people including J. Edgar Hoover the head of the FBI said there was no factual basis supporting these policies so there are both legal problems and factual problems with what happened during that period." Tyler said, noting that the Hirabayashi and Korematsu convictions were later overturned and both men received Presidential Medals of Freedom.

Billoo and others say President-elect Trump needs to provide clarity as to exactly where he stands. Billoo says CAIR and other groups are prepared to take legal action, if the Trump administration pursues a registry program.