A top immigration adviser on President-elect Donald Trump's new team is reportedly drafting plans for a "Muslim registry" and said the administration could push to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall quickly without congressional approval.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped create the notorious "show me your papers" anti-immigration laws in Arizona and is reportedly a key member of Trump's transition team, told Reuters that advisers had discussed drafting executive orders "so that Trump and the Department of Homeland Security hit the ground running."
To implement Trump's call for "extreme vetting" of some Muslim immigrants, Kobach said the immigration policy group could recommend the reinstatement of a national registry of immigrants and visitors who enter the United States on visas from countries where extremist organizations are active.
Kobach's plan reportedly includes resurrecting the now-defunct National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), launched in 2002, that required immigrants from "higher risk" countries to undergo interrogation and fingerprinting. Some male immigrants over 16 years old were also required to register in person and periodically check in with the government.
NSEERS—which Kobach helped design—was gutted in 2003 after civil rights outcry. In 2011, the Obama administration removed all the countries on the "high risk" list, effectively ending the program, but as New York Magazine's Margaret Hartmann points out, the regulation is still technically on the books.
As for the border wall, one of Trump's signature promises, Reuters continues:
[....] Kobach said the immigration advisers were also looking at how the Homeland Security Department could move rapidly on border wall construction without approval from Congress by reappropriating existing funds in the current budget. He acknowledged "that future fiscal years will require additional appropriations."
As CNBC calculated in October, a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border could cost anywhere from $15 billion to $25 billion.
Trump has come under fire from civil rights activists for promising to deport millions of "criminal" immigrants, which many media outlets took to mean undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions. But on Tuesday, Kobach clarified to CNN's Brianna Keilar that, in fact, the term referred to undocumented immigrants who are arrested for loitering or allegedly associating with a gang—but not convicted.
In other words, not criminals.
"I think you'll see probably a Trump administration saying, look, we're going to define criminal more broadly and not so narrowly and we're going to get these 2 million out," he said.
"[A] small percentage of the people who are arrested are ultimately convicted... the federal government could come in and say, look, this guy's a known gang member, he's been arrested maybe multiple times. Sure they haven't convicted him yet, but we ought to get him out of the country. And that's what this administration, the Trump administration will probably do," he said.
Just Security spoke with immigration law expert Adam Cox about the issue. Cox explained, "It may sound far-fetched to suggest that the President-elect means to include people without any criminal convictions in his understanding of the 'criminal aliens' who will be made deportation priorities. But it shouldn't."
People who are picked up by the police for loitering or allegedly hanging out in a gang "can't be deported for having been convicted of a crime—because they haven't been," Cox said. "But because they have no legal right to stay in the country, they can be deported without the government ever having to prove they committed a criminal act."
All this comes as Trump continues to fill his transition team with controversial appointees like alt-right media mogul Stephen Bannon and notorious Islamophobic conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney.
As NY Mag's Hartmann writes, Kobach "seems like a perfect fit for Trump's cabinet," noting that he spoke before the publishing company Social Contract Press, which the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as a white nationalist group.