During an interview with Megyn Kelly on Fox News on Wednesday, Carl Higbie, co-chair and spokesperson for the Great America PAC for Donald Trump, discussed the possibility of creating a registry for immigrants from Muslim countries by saying, “We’ve done it based on race, we’ve done it based on religion, we’ve done it based on region … We did it during World War II with Japanese.” (A transcript of the interview appears below.)
The Japanese American Citizens League said in a statement, “Higbie’s attempt to cite Japanese American incarceration as a precedent for this type of action is frightening and wrong. It’s a statement intended to lay a marker for a misguided belief that ignores the true lessons of Japanese American incarceration.
“This lesson was captured in the words of a federal commission that said, ‘…The broad historical causes which shaped these decisions (to incarcerate Japanese Americans) were race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.’
“JACL believes that some of these same conditions exist today, where Muslim Americans are being singled out and unfairly targeted, and where the voices of leadership that should be speaking out against unfair treatment are not.”
Leaders of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) also condemned Higbie’s remarks in the following statements:
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), CAPAC chair: “Any proposal to force American Muslims to register with the federal government, and to use Japanese imprisonment during World War II as precedent, is abhorrent and has no place in our society. These ideas are based on tactics of fear, division, and hate that we must condemn.
“The incarceration of innocent Japanese Americans due to wartime hysteria and racism was a dark chapter in our nation’s history which led to civil rights violations so unconscionable that Congress later apologized for it. Like Japanese incarceration, imposing a registry upon American Muslims goes against our constitutional values and our very principles as a nation.
“We will remain vigilant and push back against the creation of any such registry, and implore the president-elect to recognize the basic civil and constitutional rights of all Americans.”
Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), CAPAC vice chair: “The suggestion of a Muslim registry, and likening such a registry to the internment of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II, is dangerous and recalls one of our nation’s darkest spots in recent history. Recognizing the wrongdoing, we officially apologized to the Japanese Americans who were interned, when President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, saying that it reaffirmed ‘our commitment as a nation to equal justice under the law.’
“We should not let misguided fear undermine our constitutional protections for religious freedom and lead us back down this dark path. Let us remain vigilant to not repeat the grievous mistakes of our nation’s past.”
Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), CAPAC chair emeritus: “These remarks are beyond disturbing. This is fear, not courage. This is hate, not policy. President Reagan himself called our internment a ‘failure of political leadership.’ This does not make America great but would take us back to the bigotry of the 1940s.
“The Trump Administration is showing they have not learned from our history when they suggest we go back to one of its darkest chapters. No one should go through what my family and 120,000 innocent people suffered regardless of their race or religion or any other way they would choose to try and divide us. I fought such divisive practices after 9/11 to ensure Muslims would not be unfairly targeted just as we were.
“Now today, I tell Mr. Trump that to re-enact a policy fueled by prejudice is uncivilized, un-American and unworthy of a president sworn to uphold our Constitution.”
Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), CAPAC whip: “The imprisonment of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II, including my parents and grandparents, is widely understood to be one of the darkest chapters in American history. I am horrified that people connected to the incoming administration are using my family’s experience as a precedent for what President-elect Trump could do.
“These comments confirm many Americans’ worst fears about the Trump Administration, and they reflect an alarming resurgence of racism and xenophobia in our political discourse. I call on the president-elect to immediately disavow these comments and begin the work of healing our nation’s divides.”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles): “The comments made by Trump supporter Carl Higbie concerning Japanese American internment are reprehensible. The internment of Japanese Americans is one of the darkest moments in our nation’s history and should not be used as a model for action by the federal government, as Mr. Higbie suggests.
“President-elect Trump not only needs to immediately condemn Mr. Higbie’s remarks, he also must repudiate the idea of a ‘Muslim registry,’ which is a bigoted idea espoused by presidential transition advisor Kris Kobach. President-elect Trump must demonstrate that he is the president for every American, not just the alt-right.”
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento): “This type of rhetoric by Mr. Higbie is outrageous, unacceptable, and reckless. The unjust internment of Japanese Americans during World War II was a painful period during our history, but we have taken great strides as a country to heal those wounds and move forward.
“Almost three decades ago the Civil Liberties Act was signed into law, rightfully issuing a formal apology to Japanese Americans who were victims of internment camps. The ability of leaders from all political parties and backgrounds to come together and recognize America’s mistake remains a tribute to the greatness of our country.
“We cannot go backwards. The United States of America must remain a safe haven for people of all faiths and origins, and a model for tolerance, justice, and liberty.”
Transcript of Interview
Megyn Kelly: You heard [New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s] position, which is, you know, we just — we don’t do that kind of thing, we don’t create registries based on religion.
Carl Higbie: Yeah, well, we have in the past. We’ve done it based on race, we’ve done it based on religion, we’ve done it based on region. And the fact is he also brings it back as like, a constitutionality issue, the problem is people outside this country are not protected under the same constitutional rights as we are in America.
Kelly: So you think it’s a good idea, and you don’t care that this is some sort of a slippery slope where Muslims may just get lumped into some group, where they get put in a registry, and some you know, some aggressive law enforcement actor in the future might abuse that list?
Higbie: Absolutely. Look, there is always a case for abuse in this thing. But the fundamental problem here is we have a large faction … Look, being a part of the Muslim faith is not a bad thing, and there is plenty — there is, you know, 1.6 billion Muslims out there. Most of them are perfectly good people, but the fact is there is a small percentage of people that have chose to align with an extreme ideology within the faith, and they’re doing harm.
So, we would like it keep tabs on it until we can figure out what’s going on, Trump has said, “Look, it’s a — it’s a regional-based thing right now, if they’re coming into our country we need to know who they are, where they are, and what’s going on,” because he’s trying to protect —
Kelly: Well, he’s trying to stop — he’s trying to stop immigration into the country from countries where there are major terrorist issues, and we — until we can figure out what’s going on, but this seems like something else, which is if you’re coming over — I mean, this is just what I’m reading, OK?
This is, that — that again, the Kansas Secretary of State Chris Kobach, who helped write the tough immigration laws in Arizona, said today that Trump’s policies advisers are drafting — they’re discussing drafting a proposal to reinstate a registry for immigrants from Muslim countries. For immigrants from Muslim countries.
Higbie: Yeah, and to be perfectly honest, it is legal. They say it will hold constitutional muster. I know the ACLU is gonna challenge it, but I think it’ll pass, and we’ve done it with Iran back — back a while ago. We did it during World War II with Japanese, which, you know, call it what you will, maybe —
Kelly: Come on. You’re not — you’re not proposing we go back to the days of internment camps, I hope.
Higbie: No, no, no. I’m not proposing that at all, Megyn, but what I am saying is we need to protect America from —
Kelly: You know better than to suggest that. I mean, that’s the kind of stuff that gets people scared, Carl.
Higbie: Right, but it’s — I’m just saying there is precedent for it, and I’m not saying I agree with it, but in this case I absolutely believe that a regional-based —
Kelly: You can’t be citing Japanese internment camps as precedent for anything the president-elect is gonna do.
Higbie: Look, the president needs to protect America first, and if that means having people that are not protected under our Constitution have some sort of registry so we can understand, until we can identify the true threat and where it’s coming from, I support it.