JA and Asian American organizations denounce Trump supporters’ references to a ‘Muslim registry’

Japanese American and Asian American organizations quickly and unequivocally denounced President-elect Donald Trump’s supporters’ recent comments about implementing a registry for Muslims that enter the United States.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach “said in an interview that Trump’s policy advisers had also discussed drafting a proposal for his consideration to reinstate a registry for immigrants from Muslim countries,” Reuters reported Nov. 15. News outlets have described Kobach as a member of Trump’s transition team.

“To implement Trump’s call for ‘extreme vetting’ of some Muslim immigrants, Kobach said the immigration policy group could recommend the reinstatement of a national registry of immigrants and visitors who enter the United States on visas from countries where extremist organizations are active,” the news outlet reported.

Former Great America PAC for Donald Trump spokesperson and co-chair Carl Higbie told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly in a Nov. 16 interview that there is “precedent” for such action.
“We’ve done it with Iran back a while ago, we did it during World War II with the Japanese.”

Kelly immediately opposed the suggestion of incarcerating people en masse, which the U.S. government did to some 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry — more than two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens — during World War II.

Trump’s transition team has since denied that it advocates for implementing a registry for Muslims.

The Manzanar Committee said the Japanese American community, having had its “Constitutional rights revoked by our government not that long ago,” must speak out against such racist rhetoric.

Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan, many Japanese American community leaders were “arrested and detained in Department of Justice internment camps, well before their families were incarcerated in American concentration camps. The United States Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation compiled lists, or a registry, of religious leaders, priests, teachers, community and business leaders. Held without charges, denied habeas corpus and other basic Constitutional rights, our government’s only ‘justification’ for their actions was that they immigrated from another land.”

The committee said that the “persecution” of Muslims and immigrants is “unmistakably similar” to what Nikkei faced during World War II 75 years ago, when they “were labeled ‘non-aliens’ and were forcibly incarcerated simply for looking like the enemy and were denied their basic Constitutional rights — freedom of religion, assembly, speech, protection against unreasonable search and seizure — they lost their freedom. Our community, American and foreign born, lost years of their livelihoods, stolen by their own government because of racism, economic greed and political opportunism,” the committee said.

“Seemingly unaware that our country redressed the unjust incarceration of our families and community through the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, some candidates, elected officials and others have claimed that this unconstitutional treatment of our community is a precedent for denying Muslim refugees entry, and for persecuting Muslim Americans,” the committee said.

The National Japanese American Historical Society denounced the concept of singling out Muslims. The nonprofit cited the presidential Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians’ 1983 findings in the “Personal Justice Denied” report, which found that President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 was the unjust result of “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”

Following the commission’s findings the Civil Liberties Act was ultimately passed, authorizing a formal presidential apology to the surviving U.S. citizens or resident immigrants of Japanese ancestry who were imprisoned during the war, as well as granting $20,000 to each surviving individual. The commission’s findings also energized Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi and Min Yasui’s efforts to overturn their wartime convictions.

Despite the U.S. government’s concessions that its actions — imprisoning an entire population en masse, and denying them their civil liberties — were unjust, “’Korematsu remains on the pages of our legal and political history. As a legal precedent it is now recognized as having very limited application. As historical precedent it stands as a constant caution that in times of war or declared military necessity our institutions must be vigilant in protecting constitutional guarantees. It stands as a caution that in times of distress the shield of military necessity and national security must not be used to protect governmental actions from close scrutiny and accountability. It stands as a caution that in times of international hostility and antagonisms our institutions, legislative, executive and judicial, must be prepared to exercise their authority to protect all citizens from the petty fears and prejudices that are so easily aroused,’” NJAHS noted, citing Federal District Court in San Francisco Judge Marilyn Hall-Patel’s 1984 opinion.

Among the other organizations that issued statements were the Japanese American Citizens League and OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates.

Additionally, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair Rep. Judy Chu sent a letter to Trump Nov. 23, requesting a meeting with him before the end of the year to discuss issues as they pertain to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

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