November 18, 2016

Immigrant Data, Bigly

Lots of news out there about the POTUS-elect maybe implementing a Muslim registry.

You may recall he talked about this almost a year ago, back in the day when he was stumping in Iowa, when even he probably thought there was about a Trumpzillion-to-one chance of being elected.
I would certainly implement that (a database Muslim tracking system), absolutely. There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases. We should have a lot of systems. 
He noted that even American Muslims would "have to be - they have to be" legally obligated to sign into the database; he also refused to explain how what he was suggesting differed from Germany's actions towards Jews under the Nazis, which is the most frequent comparison. And then, like so many of his pronouncements, he walked it back.

Mario Tama/Getty Images
Fast forward to this week, and we have Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talking about the registry again. Kobach, a key advisor to the Trump transition team, worked in the Dubya administration and helped create the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS, after 9/11 which required fingerprinting and interrogation on arrival from a high-risk country, as well as a requirement for some men to check in periodically - sort of like being on parole.

The registry goes along with the 'extreme vetting' plan that Trump has been promoting ever since he softened his stance on a total and complete shutdown on Muslims. We don't yet know what form the extreme vetting will take, but we do know that it's going to be more extreme than today's process, which takes up to two years in some cases before entry.

My guess is that it will take between four and eight years to get in, but perhaps I'm being overly cynical.

In addition to Kobach, there's Carl Higbie, a former Navy SEAL and current talking head, who babbled Wednesday about the constitutionality of a registry.
It is legal. They say it'll hold constitutional muster. I know the ACLU is going to challenge it, but I think it'll pass. We it during World War II with the Japanese, which, you know, call it what you will.
So, ignoring the dark period where we rounded up American citizens and shipped them off to camps to protect us from, you know, Americans, would this be legal and constitutional?

Yes, it would, if done correctly. The NSEERS program, for example, was used for a decade after 9/11, applied to only certain people from only a couple dozen countries that coincidentally happened to be predominantly Muslim -- and North Korea - and was deemed OK. From the Vox article:
So when the government designates people from particular countries for special treatment, according to Kevin Johnson of University of California Davis, "those are the kinds of things the courts are likely to say have foreign policy implications and should be in the hands of the federal government and the executive branch. 
In other words, it might not be constitutional for the government to single out Muslim immigrants for particular treatment But it's another thing for the government to single them out on a country-by-country basis  - "to say, 'I'm going to ban migrants or Muslims, even, from Yemen,'" Johnson says. 
A court challenge was rejected, and the program stayed in place.  Although no longer used, the framework is apparently still there, as are some redundant data-gathering tools, which is why the Obama administration removed the 25 countries from the NSEERS program.

A new program, some kind of registry, may never materialize - as with so many things we've heard the POTUS-elect say, or threaten, or promise, we have no idea -  and frankly I'm not even sure he has any idea what he's going to do.

Those of us who did not support him and are waiting for a sign that he's going to coalesce his many statements, policy changes, Tweets and teams into something cohesive and defined and supportable or at least not horror-inducing, were told after he won the election that we needed to wait and see.

We needed to see who he surrounded himself with, those "good people" we heard so much about, and to give him a chance to get his act together.

I'm still waiting to see how that's going to work out - but while I wait, I think it's important to pay attention to this last word from the Vox article:
A lot of people didn't know about NSEERS when it was in effect. That's not a reason not to care now. It's a reminder that when policies are actually implemented, they're rarely as crude and legally dubious as a politician like (the POTUS-elect) makes them sound - and that makes it harder for them to be challenged either in court or in the public eye. 
Care.

Care deeply about whatever direction this administration takes us.