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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet. 

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an adviser for Donald Trump’s transition team, has drafted a plan for the incoming administration to impose sweeping Islamophobic policies, including the revival and expansion of a Bush-era Muslim registry, as well as forced interrogations and ideological screenings of immigrants “regarding support for Sharia law.”

He is also calling for a redefinition of the term “criminal alien” to include “any alien arrested for any crime, and any gang member,” a dramatic expansion that could ensnare countless numbers of people before they face trial or conviction.

The plan was revealed when Associated Press photographer Carolyn Kaster captured an image of Kobach entering a private meeting with Trump on Sunday, carrying a binder and papers. Held in Bedminster, New Jersey, the meeting was aimed at discussing “border security, international terrorism and reforming federal bureaucracy,” according to the Trump transition team. Some text on one of those pages, although partially obscured by Kobach’s hand, is legible when the image is enlarged.

The document appears to lay out Kobach’s plan for his first year, if he is tapped to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

The top bullet point, titled “Bar the Entry of Potential Terrorists,” calls for DHS to “Update and reintroduce the NSEERS screening and tracking system (National Security Entry-Exit Registration System) that was in place from 2002-2005. All aliens from high-risk areas are tracked.”

As a staffer in George W. Bush’s justice department, Kobach pushed for the 2002 creation of NSEERS, a registry for men over the age of 16 who hail from countries deemed to pose a terrorist danger to the United States. Of the 25 countries included on the list, 24 had majority-Muslim populations.

By the time DHS announced in 2011 that it was indefinitely suspending the program, it had ensnared nearly 100,000 people and led to thousands of deportations. According to Chris Rickerd of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, NSEERS “mandated ethnic profiling on a scale not seen in the United States since Japanese-American internment during World War II and the ‘Operation Wetback’ deportations to Mexico of 1954.”

President Obama has continued the practice of registering Muslims through the expansion of the federal government’s terrorist watch listing system, which disproportionately targets Muslims.

Unlike Bush and Obama, who have falsely maintained that they were not creating Muslim registries, the Trump campaign has been far more overt. Reuters reporters Mica Rosenberg and Julia Edwards wrote Tuesday that Kobach, who helped author Arizona’s draconian SB 1070 anti-immigrant law, “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.”

Carl Higbie, a prominent Trump supporter and spokesperson for the Great America PAC, recently told Megyn Kelly on Fox News that the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II is a “precedent” for a potential Muslim registry.

Kobach’s written plan also calls for DHS to “Add extreme vetting questions for high-risk aliens: question them regarding support for Sharia law, jihad, equality of men and women, the United States Constitution.” The text is disturbingly similar to Trump’s campaign trail calls for an ideological screening of Muslim immigrant and visitors.

“Conspiracy-minded Islamophobia”

Arun Kundnani, author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror, explained to AlterNet that, “For more than a decade, Muslim immigrants in the U.S. have been subject to extra scrutiny and suspicion by federal agencies. The new plan will further ramp up that profiling. Interrogating ‘aliens’ about their views on sharia, jihad, the equality of men and women, and the U.S. constitution will do nothing to prevent terrorism. For President-elect Trump to seek to exclude Muslim ‘aliens’ for not respecting gender equality or the constitution would be ironic to say the least. This is not an anti-terrorism policy but an anti-Islam policy that has its origins in the conspiratorial thinking of the far right.”

Michael German, a former special agent with the FBI who is now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, agreed. “This document reflects the conspiracy-minded Islamophobia that shouldn’t be part of any government proposal,” he said.

The document appears to recommend that the Trump administration deport a “Record Number of Criminal Aliens in the First Year.” Going further, Kobach calls for the term ‘Criminal Aliens’ to be redefined “as any alien arrested for any crime, and any gang member.” In other words, one could be determined a criminal alien before facing trial or conviction.

German emphasized that the reference to the “gang database” is particularly troubling, explaining, “What we know about the gang database is that it is full of people who are placed there arbitrarily.”

The plan also recommends that the U.S. bring the “intake of Syrian refugees to zero” and calls for a “rapid build” of Trump’s proposed wall along the southern border with Mexico.

Trump’s appointees indicate that he plans to give white nationalists and anti-immigrant hardliners a direct line to the White House. So far, he has nominated white nationalist Steve Bannon as chief strategist, and Jeff Sessions, who was found to be too racist to serve as a federal judge under the Reagan administration, as attorney general. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has proclaimed he is “open” to torture, is Trump’s appointee for the role of national security adviser.

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

IMAGE: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks in his Topeka, Kansas, U.S., office May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Dave Kaup/File Photo

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