Donald Trump has gained support in the polls since the terrorist attacks in Paris last week. In a recent interview with Yahoo news, Trump mused about taking targeted state action against Muslims in the United States.
[He] vowed to take an aggressive approach with Muslims here in the United States and suggested there should be a national effort to monitor mosques. He has spoken wistfully of the New York City Police Department’s mosque surveillance program, which was abandoned last year after generating substantial controversy.
After Paris, Trump said “security is going to rule” in the United States, in order to take on what he calls “radical Islamic terrorism.” America has currently agreed to take in 10,000 refugees from the ISIS stronghold in Syria. However, if he is elected, Trump said he would deport any Syrian refugees allowed to enter this country under President Obama.
“They’re going to be gone. They will go back. … I’ve said it before, in fact, and everyone hears what I say, including them, believe it or not,” Trump said of the refugees. “But if they’re here, they have to go back, because we cannot take a chance. You look at the migration, it’s young, strong men. We cannot take a chance that the people coming over here are going to be ISIS-affiliated.”
Trump said he wouldn’t rule out warrantless surveillance, or special ID cards and databases to track Muslim Americans. (Note: Not a single terrorist attack in the United States has originated at a mosque.)
In the wake of the Paris attacks, Islamophobic rhetoric from political leaders and GOP presidential hopefuls has coincided with a spike in hate crimes against Muslims in the United States.
As the Intercept‘s Lee Fang observed, the hysteria and xenophobia surrounding the question of Syrian refugees is very similar to the rhetoric in the United States around the question of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi terror during World War Two. According to Fang, a January 1939 poll found that 61% of Americans didn’t want to accept 10,000 refugee children, most of them Jewish, into the United States. Like today with Syrians, during WWII political leaders warned that Jewish refugees might be secret Nazis, or be sent by Nazis to commit sabotage in the United States.
As ACLU of Massachusetts executive director Carol Rose and I write for WBUR today, reacting to Paris and attacks like it from a place of fear doesn’t help anyone—except perhaps the terrorists themselves. It’s too bad that the same exclusionary, racist, fearful ideas that prevented Americans from accepting Jewish refugees in the 1930s and 40s are in play today, as we watch Syrians and others from the Middle East risk their lives to find some measure of safety and security. But that’s what’s happening. It’s not America’s finest hour.