A Baptist senator introduced legislation Jan. 5 to prevent President-elect Donald Trump from creating a federal registry for Muslims entering the United States.
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and eight fellow Democrats introduced the Protect American Families Act to “prohibit the creation of an immigration-related registry program that classifies people on the basis of religion, race, age, gender, ethnicity, national origin, nationality or citizenship.”
“Religious freedom and freedom from discrimination are fundamental rights central to the very idea of being an American,” said Booker, a member of the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., a congregation aligned with the National Baptist Convention U.S.A.
“Forcing people to sign up for a registry based on their religion, race, or national origin does nothing to keep America secure,” Booker said. “It does, however, undermine the freedom of religion guaranteed by our Constitution and promote the false notion that people of certain faiths and nationalities are inherently suspect.”
During the presidential campaign, Trump suggested he might favor creating a database for Muslims who enter the United States. Since the election, Trump’s campaign has argued he never advocated for a Muslim registry and will not seek one as president, but he has called for “extreme vetting” of immigrants to safeguard against countries that export terrorism.
There is precedent for a registry created by the Bush administration called the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) to register certain non-citizens within the United States as part of the War on Terrorism. The program, started in 2002, was indefinitely suspended in 2011 and formally rescinded in December 2016.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), one of Booker’s co-sponsors, called the NSEERS program “a profound mistake.”
“Not only was it proven to be completely ineffective, it was also rooted on a pernicious form of religious and ethnic profiling, rather than individualized suspicion,” Leahy said. “It was a program based on fear, rather than reason. Any program based on such a misguided premise has no place in this great country.”
Other co-sponsors include Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).
“Our legislation would block Donald Trump and subsequent administrations from infringing on religious liberty by creating an immigration-related religious registry,” Booker said. “Throughout our history, the United States has been a beacon of hope for those seeking religious freedom, and has taken significant steps forward to advance civil and human rights. We must ensure this legacy lasts forever into the future.”