If you’re wondering if Donald Trump wants a sweeping ban to block all Muslims from traveling and immigrating to the United States, or if he wants a country-specific ban that will be targeted in such a way to create a similar outcome, or if he wants a registry to monitor Muslim immigrants, he seems happy to keep you guessing.
In response to a question on Wednesday about the deadly attack on a Berlin market and his campaign pledge to ban Muslim immigration, the president-elect said, “You know my plans. All along, I’ve been proven to be right. One hundred percent correct.” (Trump enjoys being “right” after people die, it seems.)
But Trump’s plans are not exactly knowable—his proposals on these issues are consistently Islamophobic, but otherwise pretty malleable.
It was a little more than a year ago that then-candidate Trump proposed a “total and complete shutdown on Muslims entering the the United States.” It was a major applause line at his campaign rallies, and polls conducted in the following weeks revealed that it even garnered some support from Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters .
The plan then shifted to a regional immigration ban which would target countries that, according to the campaign, had a “proven history of terrorism.”
When asked if this was a “rollback” of his proposed Muslim ban, Trump said on Meet the Press:
I don’t think so. I actually don’t think it’s a rollback. In fact, you could say it’s an expansion. I’m looking now at territory. People were so upset when I used the word “Muslim”: “Oh, you can’t use the word ‘Muslim.'” Remember this. And I’m okay with that, because I’m talking territory instead of Muslim.
The plan then grew to include a registry of Muslim immigrants that would code racial, ethnic, and religious profiling into law—a throwback to a long-inactive program instituted under George W. Bush called the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS.
But President Obama announced on Thursday that rather than just leave it inactive, there would be an immediate repeal of the program, which a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson called an “obsolete” money drainer that would “divert limited personnel and resources from more effective measures.”
Under NSEERS, nonresident visa-holders from countries deemed to be “higher risk” were subject to the kind of extreme vetting Trump has referenced throughout his campaign and transition. Nonresident men over the age of 16 were required to undergo interrogations and fingerprinting upon entering the United States along with regular check-ins with immigration officials.
So it’s good that the program is being scrapped. However, the cryptic nature of Trump’s response, and the wild variety of proposals that he has tossed out over the last year, prompted his transition team to issue a statement of clarification which contained a proposal that, well, sounded a lot like NSEERS.
“President-elect Trump has been clear that we will suspend admission of those from countries with high terrorism rates and apply a strict vetting procedure for those seeking entry in order to protect American lives,” Jason Miller, the communications director for the transition, told the Times. “This might upset those with their heads stuck in the politically correct sand, but nothing is more important than keeping our people safe.”
The Trump team has recruited Kansas Secretary of State, committed racist, and NSEERS co-architect Kris Kobach to help develop this “vetting” system. The program he helped create resulted in thousands of deportations, and, while close to 100,000 men and boys were screened under it and other Bush-era programs, zero were convicted of actual terrorism.