It was this time last year that Donald Trump first called for a “total and complete shutdown on Muslims entering the the United States.”
Then, after some blowback about the blatant Islamophobia of the proposal, Trump’s campaign surrogates retooled his approach: it wouldn’t be a religious ban, it would be a regional ban that just happened to target Muslim-majority countries. Then, either because of strategic shifts or the whims of what the candidate felt like saying on that particular day, the ban became “extreme vetting” while also maybe still being a ban.
All these months later, with Trump now the president-elect, transition team member and committed racist Kris Kobach is reportedly the guy charged with shaping the incoherencies of Trump’s malleable bigotries into actual policy.
Kobach is well-practiced at this kind of thing. Trump’s de facto Muslim registry is actually a throwback to a policy that Kobach helped design while serving at the Justice Department under George W. Bush.
Kobach helped design the program, known as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, while serving in Republican President George W. Bush’s Department of Justice after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States by al Qaeda militants.
Under NSEERS, people from countries deemed “higher risk” were required to undergo interrogations and fingerprinting on entering the United States. Some non-citizen male U.S. residents over the age of 16 from countries with active militant threats were required to register in person at government offices and periodically check in.
The program, which explicitly coded ethnic and religious profiling into law and resulted in thousands of deportations, ended in 2011. Nearly 100,000 immigrant men and boys were screened as potential terrorist threats under this and other Bush-era programs—and exactly zero were ever convicted of actual terrorism.
This is the program that Trump could reinstate. A xenophobic, civil liberties nightmare that tears communities apart, ruins lives, costs a lot of money, and doesn’t do shit.