Derek Willie is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania.
Yet another of Donald Trump’s vocal surrogates has dipped into the United States’ racist past to justify one of the President-elect’s prospective policy proposals— this time, a national registry of Muslim immigrants. In an interview with Megyn Kelly, Carl Higbie, president of the pro-Trump group Great America PAC, cited internment of “the Japanese” during World War II as legal “precedent” for requiring people visiting or emigrating from Muslim-majority countries to register with a database. At Kelly’s almost incredulous rebuke, Higbie quickly clarified that he was not “at all” suggesting the country reinstate internment camps, but that he would support “having people that are not protected under our Constitution have some sort of registry so we can understand — until we can identify the true threat and where it’s coming from…” 
We should note that there are two glaring problems with Higbie’s remarks: first, as Kelly implies, it is logically spurious to defend the morality of a proposition— in this case, the Muslim registry— by analogizing it with what one supposedly regards as its morally indefensible antecedent— Japanese internment. Either Higbie mistakenly employed internment as precedent, or his adamant dissociation from it is insincere. Second and perhaps more concerning, however, is Higbie’s misstatement of history: during World War II, the United States government interned not the Japanese, but Americans of Japanese descent. Indeed, it was Fred Korematsu, a native Californian and Japanese-American, who sued the government over his displacement in the landmark case Korematsu v. United States, where the Supreme Court judged the forced internment of Japanese-Americans constitutional.  Intentionally or not, Higbie’s analogy conflates the Muslim immigrants he hopes to monitor with ethnically Japanese, constitutionally protected, American citizens. In this sense, the ignorance of Mr. Trump’s surrogate nourishes a cultural conception of non-white people— regardless of their citizenship status— as the fundamentally un-American “other.” Echoing the sentiment latent in his surrogate’s speech is the President-elect himself, specifically as he indiscriminately labeled Mexican-Americans rapists and murders while exploiting a judge’s Mexican heritage to invalidate his legal opinion. [3, 4] From his campaign’s inception, Mr. Trump began to facilitate further the already prominent ostracism of non-white Americans, positioning his surrogate’s casual treatment of forced internment within a much larger narrative of cultural exclusion. Thus, Trump and his followers live in a universe where a person’s legal status matters not, where people of non-white ethnic origins are perennially foreign.