This Pro-Trump Spokesman Said Japanese Internment is a Precedent for a Muslim Registry

It’s been a busy week full of news about President-elect Donald Trump establishing his presidential staff and sharing some of his possible plans for crucial American issues. However, some of the week’s most startling news hasn’t come from Trump, but from Carl Higbie, former Navy SEAL and representative of Great America PAC, a political organization that supports Trump.

Higbie appeared on Fox News Wednesday to suggest that, once in office, Trump would legalize a Muslim registry to keep track of anyone practicing Islam. The idea of a registry traces back to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who said in a recent interview that Trump’s transition team has proposed planning out a registration program, according to NBC. Higbie, however, made sure that no one’s focus turned to Kobach after he hinted at actions that would entail a scary repeat of history.


While talking with Fox’s Megyn Kelly, Higbie tried to defend the passing of a legal Muslim registry. “I know the ACLU is going to challenge it, but I think it will pass. We’ve done it with Iran back a while ago. We did it during World War II with Japanese.”  His last comment referenced a dark period in American history, when the government kept as many as 120,000 Japanese-Americans in internment camps following the 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor. In 1988, more than 40 years after internment ended, President Ronald Reagan officially apologized for it and started the process of paying reparations to those who were detained.

Kelly said what we were all thinking while watching this clip. “You’re not proposing we go back to the days of internment camps, I hope. You can’t be citing Japanese internment camps as precedent for anything the President-elect is going to do.”

Higbie defended himself by explaining that the president’s first priority is to protect America and that “there is precedent” for the idea, but the damage was already done. Comments Trump made to TIME in 2015 were dug up where he refused to condemn Japanese internment, saying, “I would have had to be there at the time to tell you, to give you a proper answer. I certainly hate the concept of it.”

According to The Washington Post, Kobach and the rest of Trump’s transition team are considering reinstating the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) that was designed after the 9/11 attacks. Before being suspended in 2011, the system required that those from “higher risk” countries be fingerprinted, interrogated and even forced to check in with authorities.

Star Trek star George Takei, who has famously discussed spending his childhood in a Japanese internment camp, summed up a lot of people’s thoughts about the news through a single tweet: