President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday appeared to stand by his plans to establish a registry for Muslims and temporarily ban Muslim immigrants from the United States.
Speaking outside his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Trump did not walk back the proposals after he was asked by a reporter whether he was rethinking or reevaluating them in the wake of a fresh terrorist attack in Berlin.
“You know my plans,” Trump said.
He went on to add that the attack on a Berlin Christmas market, which was claimed by the Islamic State, had vindicated him. German authorities are seeking a 24-year-old Tunisian migrant, who they say has ties to Islamist extremists, in connection with the attack, which killed 12 people and injured dozens.
“All along, I’ve been proven to be right. One-hundred-percent correct,” Trump said. “What’s happening is disgraceful.”
A year ago, in a statement, Trump said he wanted a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
The proposal was sharply criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike. And later, Trump’s senior aides and surrogates sought to soften the proposal, suggesting that Trump would support a ban on immigration only from countries that had been “compromised by terrorism.”
But given an opportunity on Wednesday to clarify his remarks, Trump suggested that his plans stood as he had articulated them early in his campaign. The statement proposing a “complete” shutdown of Muslim immigration remains on Trump’s website. And Trump has not clarified how exactly he would address the issue as president.
The issue is the source of anxiety for Muslims and advocates across the country.
“I think that at this point, we don’t quite know what he means when he says Muslim ban,” said Faiza Patel, who co-directs the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU’s Law school. “A lot of people have interpreted that as he intends to revive the NSEERS system, which was made in-operational a few years ago,” she added, referring to the registry system developed by current Trump adviser Kris Kobach, which civil rights groups and security experts said unfairly targeted Muslims and provided few security benefits.
Jaime “Mujahid” Fletcher, who founded IslamInSpanish, a center for Muslim Latinos in Houston, said the issue of a registry came up last week when he and other area Muslim leaders met with FBI agents in Houston.
“We met with the head of the FBI in their office,” Fletcher said. “It was all about this new administration coming in: what can we expect from them? Is this going to be a change in the way they approach our community?” He said the meeting was reassuring.
Muslim leaders said they felt that a registry would take America backward and the FBI seemed to agree. “They didn’t foresee us going back to the past. They were reassuring. This is the way they see it,” Fletcher said. It was good to hear, but area Muslims are still concerned, he said. “Obviously the community feels there are orders and commands from higher up and if those are sent down to a local level, will they act? And how much of what they think now could change in the future?”
In response to other questions from reporters outside Mar-a-Lago, Trump said that he had last spoken to President Obama two days ago.