If you're horrified by the thought of a Muslim registry, consider this: It already exists.

On Monday, Dec. 12, hundreds of Muslims and allies took to the streets of Washington, D.C., to take a stand against a possible Muslim registry.

The march, organized by MoveOn.org, Desis Rising Up & Moving, CREDO, and others, saw participants travel from the U.S. Department of Justice to the White House to urge President Obama to take action to prevent his successor, President-elect Donald Trump, from creating a Muslim registry.

Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for MoveOn.org.


"In these moments, before Trump even takes office, it's important to begin building cross-sectional coalitions — especially to protect and defend frontline communities," Iram Ali, campaign director at MoveOn.org writes in an email. "Our march did just that — it brought together a diverse group of organizations to stand with Muslim communities in a time when it's so needed."

It's easy to dismiss the idea that Donald Trump will create a registry for Muslims as farfetched — until you realize that one basically already exists.

In 2002, the newly formed Department of Homeland Security announced the creation of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). The program required noncitizens in the U.S. from 25 countries (24 with majority-Muslim populations) to register with DHS. The program created 93,000 cases, but never lead to a single terrorism-related conviction. Finally, in 2011, the Obama administration delisted the countries from the system, effectively ending the NSEERs program.

Ali and others involved in the march want the administration to take things a step further and eliminate the program altogether, writing that shuttering NSEERS "would give Muslim communities a fighting chance under the Trump administration."

Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for MoveOn.org.

But does Trump really want to create a database of Muslims?

In late 2015, Trump said he would "absolutely" require Muslims to register. When asked by an NBC reporter how his plan to register Muslims was different from the registry for Jews in Nazi Germany, he simply replied, "You tell me." He's also called for a ban on Muslims traveling to the U.S. and suggested the government should be surveilling mosques.

Sure, he's walked back some of that language from time to time. And yes, his son Eric recently told a comedian on a transatlantic flight that there wouldn't be a registry. Still, it should be noted that Trump's plan to suspend Muslim travel to the U.S. remains on his website. Even more disturbing, it seems, is what he has in store for the NSEERS program.

Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for MoveOn.org

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach helped craft NSEERS. He's also a frontrunner to run Trump's DHS.

It was Kobach, along with John Ashcroft, who designed and implemented NSEERS, and thanks to an accidental glimpse from a recent meeting with Trump, it seems like the dormant program will be making a comeback.

In the photo below from Trump and Kobach's Nov. 20 meeting, the document in Kobach's left hand is titled, "Department of Homeland Security. Kobach Strategic Plan for First 365 Days." The first item on the list? Reintroduce NSEERS. Additionally, Kobach has outright said that the new administration is preparing plans for the registry.

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

Earlier this month, 51 Democratic members of Congress called on President Obama to destroy NSEERS.

In the letter, members of the House highlight some of the big problems with the program and warn of what could happen if it returned. In short, it ravaged communities and instilled distrust.

"When instituted in 2002, the program caused widespread and palpable fear in affected communities, separated families and caused much harm to people affected by it. Boys and men were required to register with local immigration offices, were interrogated, and subjected to serious due process violation. Communities saw family members and neighbors disappear in the middle of the night, held in overcrowded jails and deported without due process. More than 13,000 people were placed in removal proceedings, businesses closed down, and students were forced to leave school with degrees uncompleted."

If President Obama were to rescind the program in its entirety, it would buy civil rights organizations and Congressional opponents of the program some much-needed time to fight back against any efforts by the new administration to start from scratch. It's something he can do before leaving office.

Organizers of Monday's protests delivered petitions totaling more than 341,000 signatures urging the White House to take action.

Photo by MoveOn/Flickr.

While the fate of the NSEERS program rests in the Obama administration's hands, there are things that everyday people can do to help our Muslim friends, family, and neighbors.

"Allies can help by taking leadership from Muslims and Muslim communities who have already been impacted by similar policies that Donald Trump is suggesting," Ali suggests. "Many of these policies aren't new for our communities — what is new is the newfound solidarity that we are seeing and that is really important."

She suggests donating to Muslim-led organizations such as Desis Rising Up and Moving and MPower Change.

Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for MoveOn.org.

The coming years will be tough for marginalized groups. That's why it's important for those of us in a position to help stand in solidarity against oppression.

This is something that goes beyond the White House or political parties, but to the core of who we are as people and who we want to be as a country. When oppression exists, where people's rights and expectation of equal treatment are at risk, that's worth fighting for. Today, Muslims are being singled out for disparate treatment; tomorrow, it could be another group.

One thing is clear: People do not belong in a database or a registry like this. Let's take a stand for what is right.

True

Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

Hebert isn't working with a specific organization. She is simply trying to motivate others to find ways to plug in to help get out the vote.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less

Empathy. Compassion. Heart-to-heart human connection. These qualities of leadership may not be flashy or loud, but they speak volumes when we see them in action.

A clip of Joe Biden is going viral because it reminds us what that kind of leadership looks like. The video shows a key moment at a memorial service for Chris Hixon, the athletic director at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018. Hixon had attempted to disarm the gunman who went on a shooting spree at the school, killing 17 people—including Hixon—and injuring 17 more.

Biden asked who Hixon's parents were as the clip begins, and is directed to his right. Hixon's wife introduces herself, and Biden says, "God love you." As he starts to walk away, a voice off-camera says something and Biden immediately turns around. The voice came from Hixon's son, Corey, and the moments that followed are what have people feeling all their feelings.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

Pete Buttigieg is having a moment. The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana keeps trending on social media for his incredibly eloquent explanations of issues—so much so that L.A. Times columnist Mary McNamara has dubbed him "Slayer Pete," who excels in "the five-minute, remote-feed evisceration." From his old-but-newly-viral explanation of late-term abortion to his calm calling out of Mike Pence's hypocrisy, Buttigieg is making a name for himself as Biden's "secret weapon" and "rhetorical assassin."

And now he's done it again, this time taking on the 'originalist' view of the Constitution.

Constitutional originalists contend that the original meaning of the words the drafters of the Constitution used and their intention at the time they wrote it are what should guide interpretation of the law. On the flip side are people who see the Constitution as a living document, meant to adapt to the times. These are certainly not the only two interpretive options and there is much debate to be had as to the merits of various approaches, but since SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett is an originalist, that view is currently part of the public discourse.

Buttigieg explained the problem with originalism in a segment on MSNBC, speaking from what McNamara jokingly called his "irritatingly immaculate kitchen." And in his usual fashion, he totally nails it. After explaining that he sees "a pathway to judicial activism cloaked in judicial humility" in Coney Barrett's descriptions of herself, he followed up with:

Keep Reading Show less

The English language is constantly evolving, and the faster the world changes, the faster our vocabulary changes. Some of us grew up in an age when a "wireless router" would have been assumed to be a power tool, not a way to get your laptop (which wasn't a thing when I was a kid) connected to the internet (which also wasn't a thing when I was a kid, at least not in people's homes).

It's interesting to step back and look at how much has changed just in our own lifetimes, which is why Merriam-Webster's Time Traveler tool is so fun to play with. All you do is choose a year, and it tells you what words first appeared in print that year.

For my birth year, the words "adult-onset diabetes," "playdate," and "ATM" showed up in print for the first time, and yes, that makes me feel ridiculously old.

It's also fun to plug in the years of different people's births to see how their generational differences might impact their perspectives. For example, let's take the birth years of the oldest and youngest members of Congress:

Keep Reading Show less