As reported by ABC News, during an interview Megyn Kelly of Fox News had with Carl Higbie – a Trump supporter – Higbie indicated that precedent for the creation of a Muslim registry could be found in the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. This has created a firestorm of controversy, with George Takei of Star Trek fame suggesting that the Muslim registry could ultimately lead to Muslim internment camps.
Muslim Fears about Trump
Internment camps had not really entered the conversation regarding Muslim immigrants before Higbie’s Wednesday interview on Fox News. It should be noted that Higbie himself did not directly suggest the creation of internment camps for Muslims.
But in response to Kelly’s question, “You’re not proposing that we go back to the days of internment camps, I hope,” Higbie reemphasized its usefulness as a legal precedent for registering Muslims. Condemnation of this suggestion by Higbie came swiftly from both Muslim groups and former Japanese-American internees.
Donald Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign – in which he seemed to cast suspicion on all Muslims for the actions of a few terrorists – has done little to assuage the fears of American Muslims or Muslims traveling to the United States.
According to ABC News, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign has rejected the Trump internment camps implication, saying that Donald Trump has never advocated the creation of a full registry that track Muslims – but instead one focusing entirely on Muslims immigrating to the United States. However, Trump’s past statements in this regard have not always been entirely clear about the distinction.
Legal Precedents for Trump
Internment camps or concentration camps are something people more often associate with Nazi Germany than America. However, the ugly truth is that the United States itself also established internment camps during World War II. Of course, these camps didn’t result in the wholesale slaughter of the prisoners like the ones in Germany.
United States internment camps were constructed to imprison thousands of Japanese Americans for the duration of the war, regardless of their citizenship status. These people were rounded up from their homes with little more than the clothes on their backs and dumped into camps – principally on the West Coast.
Even with the apology that was offered during the Reagan administration to those Japanese Americans placed in internment camps during the war, little was done to compensate them for their personal and financial losses. Many lost their homes, businesses, and virtually all of their belongings. George Takei was in one of these camps, which is why he is so alarmed about the talk of a Muslim registry.
As reported by NBC News, in 1944 a case was brought before the Supreme Court – Korematsu v. United States – challenging the legality of the imprisonment of Japanese Americans without legitimate cause or any trial under FDR’s Executive Order 9066. In a six-to-three decision, the court found that Roosevelt’s order was constitutional.
The Precedents Still Stand
While Carl Higbie in his interview on Fox this Wednesday argued that the precedent created by the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II provided a legal foundation for a Muslim registry, from a technical standpoint – and even if Higbie wasn’t suggesting this himself – Korematsu v. United States also provides a legal justification for Muslim internment camps.
There are two reasons for this. One is that the original decision made by the Supreme Court in the 1944 case was based on the – unfounded – idea that Japanese Americans represented an active threat through sabotage and spying. Those arguing against Muslim immigration into the United States – or even a Muslim presence here – also argue that they represent a threat to the country.
The other reason why Muslim Americans should be extremely concerned about any discussion of internment camps is that the Korematsu v. United States decision has never been overturned – and is unlikely to be so with the present court. So while the United States government in 2011 said that the Justice Department in the 1940s erred, legally there is nothing to stop Trump internment camps for Muslims, Mexicans, or anyone else from being created.
[Featured Image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]