USA First Look

Why Madeleine Albright says she is ‘ready to register as Muslim’

The former secretary of State has joined a growing list of celebrities who say they'll register as Muslims if President Trump fulfills his campaign promise of compiling a national registry of Muslims. 

Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright speaks during a memorial service for former Israel Prime Minister Shimon Peres at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, Oct. 6, 2016. Ms. Albright tweeted on Jan. 25, 2017, that she is ready to register as Muslim as a show of solidarity.
Zach Gibson/AP/File
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Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright took to Twitter Wednesday to express solidarity with Muslims and refugees in general.

She followed the picture with another tweet saying, “I was raised Catholic, became Episcopalian & found out later my family was Jewish. I stand ready to register as Muslim in #solidarity.”

Ms. Albright’s sentiments, along with similar statements by feminist icon Gloria Steinem and Big Bang Theory actress Mayim Bialik are a response to President Trump’s recent moves to make good on his campaign promises regarding immigration. An executive order signed Wednesday aims to jumpstart construction on the border wall, and reports say that a future order will halt the flow of refugees.

According to a draft executive order obtained by CNN, the president plans to suspend all refugee admissions for up to four months and to prohibit admittance of anyone from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen for 30 days.

"In order to protect Americans, we must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward our country and its founding principles," the order reads, according to CNN. "We cannot, and should not, admit into our country those who do not support the United States. Constitution, or those who would place violent religious edicts over American law."

A 30-day stay of visitors from Muslim-majority probably falls short of a “Muslim ban,” which most legal scholars say would be unconstitutional, some observers worry it might be just the first step the president takes before moving on to other promises.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump said he would “absolutely” implement a database to register Muslims, words that were criticized by Muslim groups around the country and compared to anti-Jewish laws in Nazi Germany .

A protest group soon sprang up with members pledging to falsely register as Muslims in an attempt to dilute the database and diminish its discriminatory power. At the time of writing, almost 31,000 people had signed on to register.

America has created a similar registry at least once before. The administration of President George W. Bush enacted the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) in 2002 as a response to the 9/11 attacks. The system required non-citizens who are 16 years and older from 24 Muslim-majority countries and North Korea to be fingerprinted and photographed when entering the United States and to check in periodically with immigration officials until leaving.

NSEERS reportedly monitored upwards of 80,000 men and boys, 13,000 of whom were subject to deportation. Despite its scale, the program resulted in no terrorism convictions before 2011, when Obama canceled it by taking all 25 countries off the list.  

The efficacy of the NSEERS program is a matter of contention. The American Civil Liberties Union told CNN that it believed NSEERS “actually made genuine efforts at trying to combat terrorism more difficult by destroying relationships with immigrant communities and actually negatively impacting the ability of the federal government to cooperate with foreign governments in fighting terrorism."

This week’s executive orders brought similar concerns back to the surface, as The Christian Science Monitor reported Wednesday.

“This is a pretty profound change,” Ryan Crocker, a former US ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan told the Christian Science Monitor Wednesday. The immigration orders, along with additional executive orders expected to be signed later this week, “will underline this very marked shift in our approach to national security.”

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Ambassador Crocker was part of a bipartisan group of diplomats and security advisers that advised President Obama against cutting the number of Syrian refugees allowed in the country. The group argued that turning away Muslim refugees would send a message that the West is anti-Muslim.

Trump’s expected order restricting Muslim arrivals, he adds, “is going to confirm to the world that we are anti-Muslim.”

The border wall seems to be sending a similar message to Mexico, with President Enrique Peña Nieto canceling his upcoming White House visit in response to Trump’s order to build the wall and subsequent tweets.

Trump says he wants to protect American jobs and stop terrorist attacks, but some wonder if such simple solutions as walls and databases can solve the complex problems facing the country.

“Yes, we want safer borders, but we’ve also learned after a couple of decades of NAFTA that we are better off, we are safer and doing better economically, if Mexico is doing well,” Luis Ribera, director the Center for North American Studies at Texas A&M University in College Station told the Monitor. “If there are more jobs in Mexico, there will be fewer people crossing the border."

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