The president-elect has signalled support for tracking Muslims in the US – an idea that has a precedent of sorts but which is probably unconstitutional
Throughout his presidential campaign, Donald Trump made clear his intent to pursue aggressive tactics against Muslims as part of his approach to national security.
The most prominent was his proposal to ban all Muslim immigration to the US, which remains on Trump’s website even today. But another key question before Trump’s pending administration was whether it would implement a Muslim registry.
Concerns over a possible database of Muslims focused on a discussion between Trump and Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, for a potential cabinet position. Kobach was photographed on his way into the meeting with Trump last week carrying documents outlining plans requiring “special registration” of immigrants from certain “high-risk” countries, a method used in the past to create a database of mostly Muslims.
Muslims in Trump’s America: realities of Islamophobic presidency begin to sink in
Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, also declined to explicitly rule out such a registry, even as he said there would be no database based on religion.
The lack of clarity has prompted many to wonder: is there any precedent for such a registry, and would it even work?
What has Trump said?
As a candidate, Trump did not specifically campaign on the need for a Muslim registry. But when Trump was asked, on multiple occasions, if he favored a broader Muslim registry, he both declined to rule it out while signaling potential support for the idea.
Trump also called for a database for Syrian refugees coming to the US, and on 20 November was widely perceived as embracing a broader Muslim registry in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris.
When an MSNBC reporter asked if “there should be a database or system that tracks Muslims in this country”, Trump responded: “There should be a lot of systems. Beyond databases. I mean, we should have a lot of systems.”
Pressed on whether his administration would implement a Muslim registry, Trump proceeded to say he “absolutely” would. Politifact suggests he may have been referring at this point to the border wall, as Trump had deviated to discussing his plan for the southern border when the reporter followed up.
But he also said “it would just be good management” when the reporter asked again about creating a database of Muslims.
Since his victory in the presidential race, Trump’s campaign has argued he never advocated for a Muslim registry nor will he. But Trump himself has yet to put an end to the discussion by rejecting the proposal outright, and his meeting with Kobach only further fanned the flames.